80,000 visitors, 3 rescues mark Labor Day weekend at Zion National Park

People waiting in line for the shuttle at Zion National Park over the 2015 Labor Day weekend, Springdale, Utah, Sept. 6, 2015 | Photo courtesy of Zion National Park, St. George News

SPRINGDALE — It was a record breaking Labor Day weekend at Zion National Park with 80,000 visitors and three simultaneous calls for help that stretched the park’s resources, park officials said Wednesday in a press release.

All three calls for help came Tuesday between 4 p.m. and 9 p.m. and final rescues wrapped up at 3 p.m. Wednesday.

The first call initially came into the Kane County Emergency Communications Center at 4:17 p.m. when two hikers called 911 to report they were lost during a day hike covering the east side of Zion National Park.

Once emergency personnel pinpointed the hiker’s location using GPS coordinates on the caller’s cellphone the call was transferred to the park’s dispatchers, according to Aly Baltrus, Zion National Park spokesperson.

At that point, officers dispatched park rangers and search and rescue personnel who responded and located the lost hikers, who were guided back to safety by 9:30 p.m.

Campers hiked to Weeping Rock, a Southern Paiute cultural site, Zion National Park, undated | Photo courtesy of the Bureau of Land Management, St. George News
Campers hiked to Weeping Rock, a Southern Paiute cultural site, Zion National Park, undated | Photo courtesy of the Bureau of Land Management, St. George News

Less than two hours after the first call, visitors in the park called 911 to report hearing people yelling for help in the area above Weeping Rock.

Baltrus said a group of canyoneers rappelling in Echo Canyon had continued climbing beyond the route closure to a 300-foot drop and found they did not have enough rope to complete the descent.

Without enough daylight to complete a rescue safely, park rangers decided to hold off until Wednesday morning to initiate the rescue. Authorities closed Weeping Rock Trail at 7:30 a.m. to reduce the possibility of injuries that could be caused by falling rocks while a rescue effort began.

Four search and rescue team members rappelled down to the group and helped them descend the route safely. The trail reopened at 12:13 p.m. once the group was safety on the ground.

Also on Tuesday at 9 p.m. a concerned party called in to report that two hikers in the Left Fork of the Virgin River area, known as the “Subway,” had not yet returned and were overdue.

A 5-member search and rescue team was assembled and dispatched to the area Wednesday morning and located the stranded hikers. One of the hikers was experiencing a medical condition that made it impossible to continue, Baltrus said.

A National Parks Service helicopter was called in to shorthaul the patient out of the canyon. Baltrus said she was flown by helicopter to a Hurricane City ambulance, which transported the woman to Dixie Regional Medical Center in St. George.

The park’s wildland fire team also helped with the evacuation, Baltrus 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.

Email: cblowers@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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