ST. GEORGE — A 57-year-old man turned up safe in Snow Canyon State Park Sunday morning after getting lost while hiking and spending the night outdoors.
Sgt. Darrell Cashin of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office said the search and rescue team responded to the incident shortly after 7 p.m. Saturday, after the man’s wife had called 911.
“She said that she and her husband went hiking. He took one trail, and she told him to be back in like 30, 40 minutes, and he didn’t come back. So she yelled for him for about an hour and never heard anything. So she called us and we responded,” Cashin told St. George News Sunday afternoon, noting that the couple had been hiking together in the Petrified Dunes area late Saturday afternoon, about an hour or so before dark.
Cashin said the couple, who are from the Ivins area, had gotten separated when they had taken different paths after coming to a fork in the trail.
“She went to the left, which takes you up on a little ridge line. He went to the right, which takes you to the northwest. He likes to do little bit of rock climbing, scrambling over rocks and stuff.
“She said, ‘I was back in 30 or 40 minutes and he wasn’t back. And I started to worry,’” Cashin reported the wife as saying.
For more than three hours Saturday night, trained search and rescue searchers scoured the area, Cashin said.
“I sent teams down multiple trails, cross country. I sent them up West Canyon. We called for LifeFlight to come and help look. We had a K-9 out there with scent articles trying to find him. We were yelling for him, with helicopters and everything else and nobody could find him,” Cashin said.
Finally, around 11 p.m., the rescuers decided to suspend the search until Sunday morning.
“We decided to kind of just shut it down until morning because it’s so difficult to find anybody in the dark,” Cashin said.
Meanwhile, the missing man’s wife decided to spend the night in her car, Cashin added, noting that a deputy had first taken the woman home. “She came back in another vehicle because the vehicle they came in, he had the keys to it, so she couldn’t get in it,” he explained.
Then, at approximately 8 a.m. Sunday, just as rescuers were setting up operations in a staging area near the Lower Galoot trailhead, the man they were looking for came walking out on the trail on his own, Cashin said.
“While they were setting up a landing zone for the DPS helicopter, which had flown down here for this, he came walking out of Lower Galoot Trail,” Cashin said. “He said he’d fallen, had hurt his shoulder, and had hit his head really hard. At that point, he said he just lay there and went to sleep until morning.”
Cashin said the Utah Department of Public Safety’s helicopter, which had flown down from Salt Lake City, was summoned for its thermal imaging capabilities.
“We had actually called them last night because they have forward-looking infrared (FLIR) on that helicopter, and we were wanting them to come down to look for a heat signature,” Cahsin said, noting that the DPS crew said they’d be there first thing in the morning. “Even during the day, their FLIR will help because it’s cold outside. If there’s somebody that’s at body temperature, they’ll be able to pick that up.”
Cashin said he thinks the man might have been unconscious during the initial rescue operations the night before.
Also making things difficult was the fact that the man wasn’t thought to be carrying anything he could use to signal rescuers.
“He didn’t have a cell phone. He didn’t have any light. He didn’t have much of anything other than what he was just wearing,” Cashin said, adding that temperatures in the area had dipped down to the low 30s overnight.
Cashin said shortly after the man approached rescue officials Sunday morning, he was promptly evaluated by Santa Clara-Ivins emergency personnel at the scene.
Cashin said he did not know for sure whether the man was transported by ambulance to the hospital or if he simply went home with his wife.
“At that point, I canceled my guys and thanked UHP for sending their helicopter all the way down here,” he said, referring to Utah Highway Patrol.
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