Interior Department awards citizen for saving a teen hiker on Angels Landing

Angels Landing, Zion National Park, Utah
Sgt. David Bavencoff, recipient of the Department of Interior's Citizen's Award for Bravery in 2012 for saving the life of a hiker on Angel's Landing Trail in 2010 | Photo courtesy of Zion's newsdesk, National Park Service

ZION NATIONAL PARK – Interior Department Secretary Ken Salazar recently presented the prestigious Citizen’s Award for Bravery to a modest California police detective, David Bavencoff, for his actions to save the life of a hiker in Zion National Park who slipped off Angels Landing Trail.

In March 2010, Bavencoff was hiking with his family on the popular Angels Landing Trail. As they neared the end of the trail at the top of Angels Landing, he witnessed a teenage girl who was also hiking with her family, slipping off the trail. He immediately reacted by grabbing the girl by her ankle and stopping her fall, which would have probably been fatal. Bavencoff and the girl’s father then pulled her back up on the trail to safety.

No one reported the incident and park officials knew nothing of the rescue, until Bavencoff’s supervisor heard the tale when he asked the detective about his vacation. The supervisor then called Zion’s Chief Ranger Cindy Purcell, who started the nomination process for the department’s Citizen’s Award for Bravery.

The Citizen’s Award for Bravery is granted to private citizens for heroic acts or unusual bravery in the face of danger. Honorees receive a special certificate and citation signed by the Secretary for risking their lives to save the life of an employee of the Interior Department or the life of any person while on property owned by or entrusted to the department.

All visitors to Zion National Park are reminded to remain vigilant when near exposed cliffs. Any location with vertical exposure can be dangerous and should not be underestimated. Attention to the terrain and focus on footing are essential for a safe experience.

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