‘It was crazy’; Firefighters free man stuck in Virgin River mud for 3 hours

WASHINGTON CITY — An evening’s tubing trip down the Virgin River ended by the Sullivan Soccer Park complex in Washington City when one of the tubers got his leg trapped in mud and required rescue from emergency responders Monday.

Firefighters standing on the opposite side of the Virgin River watch pinpoints of light on the other side marking where their fellow first responders work to free a man stuck in knee-deep mud, Washington City, Utah, April 8, 2019 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

George Barlow, of St. George, said he started down the Virgin River with a friend and their wives on inner tubes from the Washington Dam Road bridge around 6:15 p.m. Everything was going well until the tube Barlow’s friend was on popped as it approached the soccer park.

“He stepped on the side of the river and sunk down (into the water) to his waist,” Barlow said.

The friend was trapped in the mud up to his knees beneath the water.

Barlow estimated the tube popped around 7:30 p.m. He and the others tried digging his friend out of the mud, but attempts to dig around the man failed as the holes just filled back in on themselves.

Barlow and the others dug for a half-hour and then were joined by others who also tried to help but failed.

Lights from flashlights and headlamps mark the spot where firefighters work to free a man stuck in mud up to his knees in the Virgin River. The man was finally freed after three hours, Washington City, Utah, April 8, 2019 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George New

The Washington City Fire Department got the call about the man stuck in the mud around 8:15 p.m., Washington City Fire Dept Julio Reyes said.

Reyes confirmed that the mud had locked around one of the man’s ankles and refused to let him go despite efforts to the contrary.

As the evening wore on, units from the St. George Fire Department also responded with equipment that helped create a barrier to move water flow away from the entrapped man as rescuers worked.

Reyes said that as the firefighters and others worked to release the man from the mud, he had a great attitude throughout the whole ordeal.

Firefighters were able to get a water pump to their location and used it to blast a jet of river water at the mud viced around the mans foot, finally freeing him.

A staging area for first responders at the northern end of the Sullivan Soccer Park complex during the operation to free a man stuck in mud up to his knees in the Virgin River nearby, Washington City, Utah, April 8, 2019 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

The man was able to walk across the river with some assistance – it was dark and the water was turbulent, Reyes said – and was examined by a waiting ambulance crew around 10:45 p.m.

After being checked out by medics with Gold Cross Ambulance, the man went home.

“This was crazy,” Barlow said, adding he’s never run into a quicksand-type episode on the river before. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Reyes said getting sucked down into the mud to this level isn’t a feeling many people understand until it happens to them.

“It’s an eerie feeling when you step on soil that’s firm, and then after a second it basically disintegrates and your feet give way and that soil comes back on you,” he said.

The closest many people come to this type of situation is when they get a shoe stuck in deep mud and the shoe stays put after they pull their foot out.

“It’s kind of the same feeling, but imagine that (mud) up to your knee and then having water up to your belly button at the same time,” Reyes said. “It’s kind of scary.”

This report is based on statements from police or other emergency responders and may not contain the full scope of findings.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @MoriKessler

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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