Searchers find 2 missing Washington County men; flooding claims 1 more victim

Searchers look for the body of a missing man in Snow Canyon State Park, Utah, Sept. 17, 2015 | Photo by Ric Wayman, St. George News

WASHINGTON COUNTY – Two missing persons cases were resolved Thursday night in Washington County as rescuers located the bodies of two missing men, both found dead. One of the missing individuals appears to have been another victim of Monday’s flash flooding.

At 5:13 p.m. Thursday, rescuers located the body of Ryan Mertlich, a Hurricane man who has been missing since Monday.

Mertlich reportedly left a family member’s residence in Washington City Monday night and never arrived home. Family members told authorities that Mertlich sometimes liked to drive home to Hurricane through the Warner Valley area.

Mertlich’s vehicle was found heavily damaged Wednesday in an area of the Arizona Strip a few miles south of the Utah border. Thursday evening, his body was found in the Ft. Pearce Wash area of Warner Valley.

“From what I know, it sounds like he was caught up in the flood,” Washington County Search and Rescue Commander Mike Thomas said.

Fox 13 Now interviewed Mertlich’s father; report continues below

In the search for Mertlich, Thomas said, local resources were assisted by responders from Sanpete County and Sevier County, who traveled to Washington County Thursday morning to assist in the search for the final missing canyoneer in Zion National Park, which concluded Thursday.

“When this call came in, they diverted,” Thomas said. “They actually came out and helped us out.”

ATVs head into Snow Canyon to retrieve the body of a missing man, Snow Canyon State Park, Utah, Sept. 17, 2015 | Photo by Ric Wayman, St. George News
ATVs head into Snow Canyon to retrieve the body of a missing man, Snow Canyon State Park, Utah, Sept. 17, 2015 | Photo by Ric Wayman, St. George News

Thursday evening, responders were also dispatched to Snow Canyon State Park, where a family member sighted the vehicle of Brian Timpson, another man who has been missing from Washington City since Friday.

Timpson’s vehicle was located in the Whiterocks Trail parking area of Snow Canyon State Park, and Washington County authorities were called to the area.

The Washington County Search and Rescue team was deployed and began searching, with the aid of a K-9 unit, from the place where the vehicle was found.

The SAR team also called in Life Flight for assistance, giving the Life Flight responders a search area to cover.

“Life Flight donated an hour of time,” Thomas said.

Searchers look for the body of a missing man in Snow Canyon State Park, Utah, Sept. 17, 2015 | Photo by Ric Wayman, St. George News
Searchers look for the body of a missing man in Snow Canyon State Park, Utah, Sept. 17, 2015 | Photo by Ric Wayman, St. George News

Life Flight performed a flyover and located Timpson’s body from the air, relaying the GPS coordinates to responders on the ground. Timpson’s body was reportedly found in a slot canyon.

The ground crew went in, investigated and extracted the body, Thomas said.

There was no evidence of foul play in Timpson’s death, Thomas said.

“It’s an ongoing investigation,” he said.

Thursday night’s discoveries added two more individuals to Washington County’s staggering recent death toll.

“It’s just been a sad week,” Thomas said. “It’s been a rough week.”

“At least the families can start to get some closure,” he added.

This report is based on preliminary information provided by law enforcement or other emergency responders and may not contain the full scope of findings.

St. George News reporter Ric Wayman contributed to this report.

Ed. note Sept. 18: CORRECTION to spelling made:  Fort Pearce Wash, rather than Fort Pierce Wash.

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  • knobe September 18, 2015 at 7:11 am

    I have a friend with many many years of trail guide experience .
    The number of stories about people who constantly Over estimate their abilities is sad .
    I just saw the article that included the ages of the people who died in Zion .
    They were all over 50 and few people of that age have the ability to survive when things change to hazardous .
    They chose to Ignore warnings as do too many with dire consequences .

    I am trying to talk them into authoring a book about how Not to Die when venturing out into nature .
    I guess though a Huge chunk of it is Not Over estimating your abilities .
    Maybe that takes a psychologists help ?

  • debbie September 18, 2015 at 8:19 am

    i don’t think people truly understand what they are talking about the situations with the warnings. i am from “back east” i know some of these people were from a different kind of “terrain” the rocky mountains are illusionary… they can have you believing that “somebody forgot to take the flood sign down” when i first moved here and they talked about flooding all day long.. and that it was so crazy b/c the sky is so beautifully blue with a cloud in it. We all the time see employees of agencies “forgetting” to take signs down.. i four wheeled and tooted and hiked and still didnt understand the dangers UNTIL i started meeting more neighbors and they explained water from a storm up north flushing us away.. the floods in the east are watery.. you can sometimes be flooding and make it to higher ground and trees etc.. and just “hang on” til help comes.. for pete sakes there was a church bus years ago rushed away by flooding WATER and most of the 25 kids made it, when the were sucked out of the bus windows, and Pine trees were in the flood path they all hung on for dear life (10 still died rip.) you don’t think about water coming from the mountain standing right next to you.. your just not used to “thinking in those terms..” its common sense to those who grew up here, but i can guarantee you there are dangers in the south… you guys would never ever ever even think about.. i think they need to rename “flooding” here.. with something that lets ppl know.. they cannot go “UP” when the mudslides roll along” that they cannot swim or float with this flood b/c it is NOT WATERY and just GRINDS YOUR CAR UP… Churns you and your car…. there is no “swimming at an angle” to get out.. just pure instant death. water being caught in the flat funnel of the mountain, as you try to go up to get out of flooding, gallons upon gallons of water are pouring on you that weigh hundreds of pounds and it is sweeping you down into the PARALLEL MUDSLIDES… I just don’t thin we can fault these people enough.. I somehow think you almost need to take a survival test to LIVE HERE.. maybe when you get your I.D. they could have a video that replays about how ppl are killed and inundated with flooding mudslides….. maybe motel rooms, could have a video that tourist sit in a lobby and watch while waiting for their room keys.. just some ideas.. just a 4 minute video could saved ppls lives.. this stuff is NOT common as sense as they think it is.. God Bless Everyones Families that have lost love ones this week.. my heart cries with you.. its not fair.. Please God speed comfort to them.

    • native born new mexican September 18, 2015 at 9:57 am

      Debbie I wrote in another post that growing Up in very rural New Mexico I was taught when I was a child about arroyos – what you call washes I was told if I went to play in the arroyo a weeping woman whose children had drowned would come and grab me and drown me too. This is part of the Spanish culture where I grew up. The wind in the arroyo sounds like moans from the llorona – weeping woman. This method was a very effective way to keep kids safe and out of the arroyo. We see this week in Washington county the wisdom of llorona legend. I have never forgotten it and I will remember it until I pass from natural causes hopefully.

      • anybody home September 18, 2015 at 5:13 pm

        La llorona is a powerful and beautiful image in folk mythology. Thanks for reminding us of it.

  • debbie September 18, 2015 at 8:27 am

    St. George news, i would so really really like to edit things AFTER i post, I try to be careful before posting but, until its in preview format, its hard in this box.. i could have summarized this way better and there’s a lot of grammar issues.. anyways.. take care and thanks for doing such a great job with these flooding stories. You kept us up to the minute and I would NOT have known about the Hilldale flooding had I not had ya’ll on my wall.. take care and thanks tons.

  • sagemoon September 18, 2015 at 8:31 am

    What a sad, sad week.

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