ST. GEORGE – Three people in two vehicles ended up spending the night stuck in the mud after recent rains made back roads impassable Wednesday and Thursday.
The first incident occurred around 2 a.m. Wednesday morning when a minivan driver contacted 911 saying he was stuck in the mud on Gooseberry Mesa and wanted help getting out, Washington County Search and Rescue Liaison Darrel Cashin said.
The man had been living in his car and said he could not afford a wrecker.
“He was up on Gooseberry (Mesa) and it started to rain. And of course it’s very treacherous roads and very mucky,” Cashin said.
Deputies responded, but could not reach the man by vehicle. After driving as far as they could, they walked another 500 yards to reach the man. After checking the man’s health and making sure he had food and water, the decision was made to wait until daylight to pull the vehicle out.
Search and rescue crews returned early Wednesday morning and pulled the man and his vehicle off of the mesa.
In the second incident, a couple in a Chevy pickup got stuck on Danish Ranch Road, Forest Road 031 in Dixie National Forest. The dirt road runs between Leeds and St. George, in the foothills of Pine Valley Mountain, north and west of Interstate 15.
“They called into dispatch about 1 a.m. and said they were stuck in the mud,” Cashin said. The couple had called every wrecking company, but none of them thought they could make it into the area, even with four-wheel drive.
The truck was located about two miles west of Yankee Doodle Canyon, Cashin said. The road in this area is steep and winding and borders steep cliffs.
Deputies tried from both directions but could not reach the couple and almost got stuck themselves.
The couple was uninjured, so the decision was made to wait until daylight to get them out.
“They were fine, except they had to wait a while,” Cashin said.
“My advice to people is, if it looks like it’s going to rain, don’t take the back roads, don’t take the dirt roads,” Cashin said.
“Because that hard-pack will turn to a very clay-like material and it will stick to your tires,” Cashin said, “and once it’s stuck to your tires you’ll have no traction, you’ll end up getting stuck and you could be there for quite a while.”
In situations where no one is ill or injured, Cashin said he prefers to err on the side of caution when deciding whether to send search and rescue crews out in the middle of the night or wait until daylight when it’s safer for rescuers.
“I’ve been in it (mud), I’ve had situations where if you’re on a hill and there’s a cliff off to the side, you’ll go to stop and your truck will still move.”
If someone had been hurt or sick, search and rescue would have done everything possible to rescue the parties as soon as possible, Cashin said.
Search and rescue crews do not generally pull out vehicles unless there are extenuating circumstances such as a vehicle stuck in a roadway, or near a cliff.
“It’s not something we routinely do.”
Ed. note: Corrected name of Pine Valley Mountain.
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