ST. GEORGE — Saturday night, police officers were notified that at dusk a 17-year-old boy had run from a youth wilderness program’s campsite in a rugged, uninhabited area of desert backcountry close to an area known as Jackson Springs near the Gunlock Reservoir. On the way to search for the boy, a member of the Washington County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue team lost control of his Jeep on the unpaved Motaqua Road, causing the vehicle to roll. The SAR member was hospitalized and later found to have a concussion, while the search resumed for the boy.
In the dark, rescue teams, some in all-terrain vehicles others on-foot, dispersed throughout the backcountry near Jackson Springs and Pachoon Flats. The boy was said to not have a flashlight or food, and only a small amount of water.
About 15 of the 70 SAR members in Washington County helped search for the boy, Washington County Sheriff’s Deputy Darell Cashin, who manages the SAR team, said. All of the SAR members on Cashin’s team are nonpaid volunteers, and the majority of them use their own equipment, vehicles, and in this case, tracking dogs during rescues.
In this instance, the Jeep that rolled was a personal vehicle of the SAR member who was driving it toward the lost boy. The visibility on the dirt road was poor because of dust from the convoy of SAR vehicles, Cashin said. Cashin was following two cars behind the Jeep on a dirt road and saw the Jeep roll.
“He came around this corner and just washboarded and turned his Jeep,” Cashin said, “flipped onto his side and knocked him out.”
He had no broken bones and there was no bleeding, but the SAR member sustained a concussion and was transported by ambulance to the Dixie Regional Medical Center, Cashin said. He was checked out at the hospital and later cleared to leave.
While their team member was hospitalized, the rest of the SAR team arrived at the campsite from where the boy ran and began the search. Most of the team spread out in Jeeps or ATVs, looking for the boy.
One team that was on foot caught the boy’s scent with help from a tracking dog. With help from the K-9, they followed the boy’s scent and found his footsteps for a time but lost both his steps and his scent once they came upon a road. For the next five-six hours the SAR teams continued looking for the boy as the night turned to early morning.
At approximately 2 a.m. the teams were notified that the boy had been located. “He ran out of what little water he had and was wandering around in the desert,” Cashin said.
The boy had walked into a nearby camp, cold, hungry and thirsty and the person who was camping there drove to an area with cell phone service and let the police know that he had the boy. The camper then turned the boy over to a Washington County Sheriff’s Deputy who turned him back over to the wilderness program. The boy was checked out by medical personnel and, although cold and thirsty, he had no other reported medical problems. The boy’s mother, who lives in Maryland, was also notified, Cashin said.
As far as the SAR member with the concussion, he shouldn’t have to pay for any medical bills, Cashin said. Although the rescuers are unpaid, they are covered by the Worker’s Compensation Fund.
“These guys risk themselves every time we go out,” Cashin said. “I don’t want to place blame … it was just a bad situation last night.”
This late night search capped a significantly busy three days for Washington County’s Search and Rescue teams. It’s fairly typical for SAR to have only one rescue every week or two, Cashin said. But the last three days, SAR has had four searches.
Thursday afternoon, SAR assisted in rescuing a mountain biker who ended up Life Flighted to the hospital; Friday, for about five hours, 25 SAR members searched the Arizona Strip for a suicidal man, and Saturday, not only did they search for the runaway teen, SAR also assisted 10 mountain bikers who were lost in the dark in the Red Cliffs Reserve.
Out of all these incidents, everybody returned safely and no one else got hurt, Cashin said. “And that’s all that matters … things can be fixed but people can’t.
“I cannot say enough about these (Search and Rescue) guys.”
The SAR members work for free and many of them take time off from work to go search, Cashin said. They pay for their own training, and they use mostly their own equipment that they pay for themselves.
“With as many people as we have using all these beautiful recreational areas … they save the citizens of the county so much,” Cashin said. “For these guys to take time off of work and come out there, I’m just so thankful for them.”
That being said, Cashin does everything he can to help the team with the resources he has. Although SAR does get an operational budget each year from Washington County, SAR relies mostly on donations and charity from the community. The operational budget pays for things like fuel, food, water, and sometimes repairs on equipment.
Anyone interested in donating funds or support can do so at the Washington County Sheriff’s office. A donation fund is available and money can be designated to the Search and Rescue.
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