Rescue crews find couple stranded on Kolob Mountain writing goodbye letters

December 2015 file photo of Washington County Search and Rescue trailer on Dixie National Forest, Utah, Dec. 16, 2015 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

WASHINGTON COUNTY — A Hurricane couple who went missing Wednesday was found Thursday following an extensive overnight search. The couple spent the night in their vehicle, which had become stuck in the snow near Kolob Mountain.

The couple was located by two search and rescue team members 60 yards from the crest of Kolob Mountain shortly before 11:30 a.m. Their rescue came as a relief to their son, who had driven from his home in San Diego the day before after no one was found during a welfare check at the the couple’s home.

Search and rescue members locate a missing couple on Kolob Mountain and lead them out to safety, Washington County, Utah, Jan. 25, 2018 | Photo courtesy of Washington County Search and Rescue, St. George News

Acting on the son’s call to emergency services reporting them missing, Hurricane Police officers checked the couple’s home shortly after 1 p.m. Wednesday and noticed that their vehicle, a gray Nissan Xterra, was not parked in the garage.

“The son said he hadn’t heard from his parents. They are new to the area and told him they were going out exploring, but he couldn’t get a hold of them, which he said was very unusual,” Washington County Sheriff’s Sgt. Darrell Cashin said.

An alert was sent out to the Washington County Sheriff’s Office where the couple’s cell phones were pinged to obtain GPS coordinates. One phone pinged from a cell tower in Apple Valley, Cashin said, while the other pinged near the Virgin River, leaving deputies with an enormous search area to cover.

The information was relayed to deputies who then began searching for the missing pair by canvassing various locations in between both locations, continuing the search throughout the night.

“That area is vast, and they could have been anywhere,” Cashin said.

That evening, the couple’s son left his home in San Diego, and after driving through the night, arrived in Hurricane where he met up with one of the couple’s close friends. They then made their way to Kolob Road to join in the search.

Shortly after 4 a.m. Thursday, a Washington County Sheriff”s Search and Rescue team was called in to assist. By dawn several teams were assembled and dispatched to multiple locations within the perimeter to begin searching.

July 2016 file photo of Kolob Mountain, Iron County, July 12, 2016 | Photo by Tracie Sullivan, St. George/Cedar City News

Meanwhile, deputies continued in the search that by then was being expanded to include the eastern portion of Washington County. The Iron County Sheriff’s Office was also contacted to assist in the search, along with a helicopter crew in preparation for an aerial search. An airplane was placed on standby, as well.

“There were a lot of roads, a lot of mesas and a lot of area to search, Cashin said, and we knew the couple was probably stranded and in trouble.”

After searching for several hours, two of the rescue crew members hiked toward the top of Kolob Mountain where they spotted the Nissan approximately 60 yards from the top of the ridge. They found the pair uninjured inside the SUV and notified their son.

The rescued man told responders they had been heading up the mountain when their SUV became stuck in the snow just short of the crest. Once they realized they couldn’t get it unstuck, they remained in the vehicle and intermittently started the engine for a few minutes at a time to stay warm.

Once the search team was able to free the SUV from where it was lodged into the snow, the group made their way to Kolob Road where the couple’s son was waiting.

When rescuers initially found the couple, Cashin said, they learned that both didn’t believe they would be found and were “writing things to their families, in case they weren’t found alive.”

Staying with their vehicle and having water on hand resulted in a positive outcome, Cashin said.

“The joy that couple showed, especially after finding them writing to their families, well, my SAR guys said it was very touching,” Cashin said. “Without the call from the couple’s son, things may have turned out very differently.”

The 20-plus hour search extended over a large area, encompassing numerous locations, including Gooseberry, Little Creek Mesa, Smithsonian Butte, Dalton Wash, Kolob and other areas within the perimeter provided by signals from both cell phone towers.

The Hurricane Police Department, deputies and search and rescue team members from the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, the Iron County Sheriff’s Office and Southern Utah University’s Aviation Program assisted in the rescue effort.

Email: cblowers@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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3 Comments

  • comments January 25, 2018 at 9:14 pm

    that is impressive

  • SteveSGU January 26, 2018 at 2:13 pm

    Where exactly is the top of “Kolob Mountain,” and can a vehicle drive there??

  • Jamie January 27, 2018 at 9:34 am

    Great job guys!!

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