ZION NATIONAL PARK – A St. George man died Friday while canyoneering with a group in Zion National Park.
At about 1 p.m., park officials were alerted to a canyoneering accident in Not Imlay Canyon, which is a side canyon of Imlay Canyon. A rescue operation was immediately initiated, according to a press release from Zion National Park.
“A helicopter was used to drop off a Search and Rescue team at the top of the canyon,” the press release said.
Park Rangers found the body of the man who had been involved in the accident, Christian Louis Johnson, 50, of St. George, at 7:20 p.m. He was dead when rescuers located him.
Johnson had been canyoneering with a party of four, including his husband, Everett Boutillet, the press release said. Boutillet told park officials he and Johnson had been canyoneering together since 2010 and had “descended more than 100 canyons 200 times in five states,” according to the press release.
This was the couple’s second time canyoneering in Not Imlay Canyon. The accident occurred on their first rappel into the canyon.
“Zion was our favorite park,” Boutillet said, as quoted in the press release. “Our favorite place to be. Our first canyon was the ‘Subway’ and we were instantly addicted. Louis and I understood the risks, but the joy that it brought outweighed them.”
“Nature gave him so much peace,” Johnson’s mother, Joy Johnson, said.
We also want to share our gratitude for those that went out to him and brought him back and to the personnel for keeping us informed. Also our gratitude to his canyoneering family, who have sent Louis and Everett well wishes from all around the world.
Not Imlay Canyon is a shorter, drier route than Imlay Canyon and has become increasingly popular in recent years, the press release said, but it is no less technical or dangerous.
The incident is being investigated by the Washington County Sheriff’s Office and Zion National Park.
Specific details about how the accident occurred have not yet been release by authorities.
“Our condolences go out to Louis’ family and friends,” Zion National Park Superintendent Jeff Bradybaugh said.
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