ST. GEORGE — A couple was rescued earlier this month after their rental car became inoperable and they spent six days stranded with little food and water in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.
The couple, 78-year-old Helena Byler and 76-year-old Gerald Byler, of Houston, was first reported overdue Sept. 27 by the motel they were staying at in Kanab after they left for a daytrip to Lake Powell and did not return the next day, according to a news release by Kane County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Alan Alldredge.
Dell LeFevre, of Panguitch, was checking on his cattle in the monument Oct. 2 when he found Helena Byler lying on Croton Road.
“Helena was severely dehydrated and confused about what had taken place,” Alldredge said in the news release.
LeFevre called sheriff’s dispatch then drove Helena Byler to Big Water where they met a Kane County Sheriff’s deputy who then transported her to Kane County Hospital.
“While traveling to the hospital and after having some food and water, Helena was able to remember some details of what happened to her,” Alldredge said, noting that the couple was using a GPS device when they left their Kia rental on Grand Bench Road east of where she was found.
“Helena indicated that after they could go no further in the car, they began walking back up the road. It got dark and they spent Tuesday (Sept. 26) night out in the rain,” Alldredge said. “Wednesday (Sept. 27) morning, she left Gerald, who couldn’t walk any further, to get help. It was five days later when she was found by LeFevre.”
Another deputy was dispatched to the area in search of Gerald Byler. A helicopter crew from Classic Air Medical was also sent from Page, Arizona, to assist in the search.
The helicopter crew spotted an “SOS” sign made out of rocks and flowers in the dirt at the junction of Croton Road and Grand Bench Road.
They landed near the car but did not find Gerald Byler with it. About a half-mile up the road, they found some old trailers near a corral.
“They found Gerald in one of the trailers still alive, but like Helena he was very dehydrated and unable to move,” Alldredge said. “The helicopter transported Mr. Byler to Dixie Regional Medical Center (in St. George) where he was immediately put into ICU.”
After spending a night in the hospital in Kanab, Helena Byler was discharged and joined her husband in St. George.
After the incident, Alldredge said Helena Byler told stories about being in granite buildings, speaking to dispatchers on the phone and encountering people who would not speak to or help her.
“The days without food and water caused her to see and hear things that were not real,” he said. “Even after being released from the hospital, those experiences were very real and vivid to her.”
As of Monday, Gerald Byler was still in the hospital, but his condition had improved significantly. The couple is expected to return home to Texas soon.
“Many little things fell into place that allowed the Bylers to be located alive,” Alldredge said. “From LeFevre making the choice to use the road he did, to the cooler weather and to the assistance of Classic Air Medical.
“One more day would probably have resulted in a very different outcome.”
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