Authorities find disoriented hiker dead in the Wave; teen son survives

A hiker walks on the Wave. The richly colored geological upheaval along the Arizona-Utah border is one of the most sought-after hikes in the West. Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, May 28, 2013 | Associated Press file photo by Brian Witte, St. George News

ST. GEORGE – A Belgian man was found dead in the Wave in Kane County Monday night following the report of a lost hiker. Authorities believe the cause of death to be heat-related.

Around 7:05 p.m., Monday, a woman staying at a hotel in Kanab called authorities to report that her partner, 49-year-old Christophe Pochic, and their 16-year-old son had been hiking the Wave, Kane County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Alan Alldredge said in a statement released Tuesday.

The Wave, Paria Canyon-Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness, Utah, date unspecified | File photo courtesy of Brent Moore, St. George News

The woman reported that her son had called from the Wave and said he had become separated from Pochic. The teen, who made it out of the Wave, told responders that his father had become disoriented and wanted to hike in the wrong direction.

Kane County Sheriff’s deputies arrived at the Wire Pass trailhead and a helicopter from Classic Aviation joined the search.

Pochic’s body was found around 9:15 p.m. by Bureau of Land Management rangers.

He reportedly had been in good health with no medical issues. Investigators at the scene determined his death to be heat-induced.

His body was taken to an area mortuary before being transported to the Utah Medical Examiner’s Office in Salt Lake City.

“Temperatures in Kane County had been extremely hot the last few weeks and we expect them to continue into August,” Alldredge wrote in the statement. “By early afternoon, the slick rock areas around The Wave can prove to be deadly because of extreme heat.”

Within the Wave there’s really no place to find shade and when the rock heats up under the sun, hikers are getting heat from the sun above and the rock below, Alldredge told St. George News over the phone.

The Wave from the air, Paria Canyon-Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness, Utah, date unspecified | file photo courtesy of Randy Weekes, St. George News

In cases like this, having water on hand, while always encouraged, won’t help much due it getting heated along with everything else, he said, noting Pochic had been found with water on him.

Hikers to the Wave are encouraged to hike in early and get out early to avoid the extreme temperatures.

“Our thoughts are with the family of Mr. Pochic at this difficult time as they return home to Belgium,” Alldredge wrote.

Pochic’s death is the first in the Wave since July 2013 when a 27-year-old Arizona woman and a California couple died in separate incidents.

Like Pochic, those death were also believed to have been heat-induced.

The lottery system allowing a limited number of hikers into the Wave has been in place since before the 2013 deaths, Alldredge said. Since then the BLM has implemented a system in which employees and volunteers act as guides for a hiking party if requested. Others monitor the trails through the Wave and also supply water to hikers.

While this system has worked well since 2013, Alldredge said there will still be instances where “someone slips through the cracks.”

Email: mkessler@stgnews.com

Twitter: @MoriKessler

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

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2 Comments

  • PlanetU July 31, 2018 at 8:10 pm

    During extreme heat why even allow people a permit?

  • Wolverine August 1, 2018 at 8:53 am

    If you’ve never visited nor hiked in this area in these conditions before, you would be wise to have a guide. (They volunteer to do it, so why not?) If you’re a repeat customer and know the ropes, go at your own risk in these extreme heat conditions. People are going to die from many things, including crossing an urban street, by a car accident, plane crash, bicycle crash and natural causes….this was a death by natural causes, due to not taking proper supplies to hydrate and protect his body against the elements and conditions.

    It’s going to happen, we should not ban the opportunity to experience this hike, (which is absolutely amazing by the way, and not a “for beginners” hike.) but every precaution should always be taken in extreme conditions. This could have happened walking anywhere in the Desert SW this time of year, even in an urban setting. There are a multitude of gadgets, gear and clothing to help minimize the effects of the elements, too cool and hydrate someone in extreme heat conditions. Buy the proper gear, take more water than you think you need, eat well, rest where you can, and plan your trip accordingly. (for example; Instant ice packs weigh practically nothing and can really help save someone’s life in this kind of a situation. ) Take a first aid class before you go on a hike like this, they’re not expensive and a little knowledge can go a long way.

    I would not go white water rafting with a cheapo inflatable blow up raft from Wally world either. Buy the proper gear for the activity you’re planning to do. Over plan for safety is always best. (Rent the gear if you have to.)

    Yes, it’s tragic, but totally preventable, with proper gear, supplies and planning. Always, always, plan for the worst, because once in a while it does happen to you. Self rescue is a necessity in remote areas most times, by the time search and rescue is called in, it’s frequently too late.

    I wish his family nothing but love and sympathy.

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