ATV found upside down in Beaver Dam wash prompts search and rescue

Motoqua Road near Nevada State line Washington County, Utah, July 13, 2019 | Submitted photo, St. George News

DAMMERON VALLEY — A man and his daughter were found safe Saturday evening following a nearly five-hour search near the Beaver Dam wash in the Motoqua area.

Washington County Search and Rescue volunteers respond to a remote area of Washington County near the town of Motoqua, Utah, on Wednesday, May 23, 2018 | Photo courtesy of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office

Sgt. Darrell Cashin of the Washington County Sheriff’s office told St. George News that just after 5 p.m., a few people were out by the Beaver Dam wash near the Motoqua area when weather conditions hindered their ability to cross the wash where the road goes across.

“So they just stopped under the trees, got out and were looking around, and all the sudden they see a pile of wet clothes,” Cashin said. “They see an ATV with its lights on upside down in the wash.”

They then drove back out to the top of the hills to get cell service and call dispatch.

The search and rescue team, Bureau of Land Management and two deputies responded to the call.

When they arrived, “the wash was running pretty good,” Cashin said, but the rain had stopped.

The major concern was that someone had gotten swept away downriver.

After arriving on scene, two deputies and the search and rescue team discovered several pieces of evidence, including a nonworking, soaked cell phone and two pairs of footprints – one adult-sized and the other possibly a teenager or child.

“We lost them (the footprints) after about 30 or 40 feet,” Cashin said.

Responders then pulled the ATV from out of the river in order to see if they could find some information on it in order to track down the owner. The license plate was out of Nevada.

It took a while because there’s no cell service out there,” he said. “We were having to use a satellite phone to do everything. Even our radios wouldn’t work. You couldn’t hit dispatch. That’s how bad the (radio) traffic is out there.”

They also examined the clothing for any details that provide a clue as to whom the ATV belonged.

On a coat, they found a name of a company so responders reached out to the company, eventually getting in contact with an employee who said that a man and his daughter had gone out to the Motoqua area. They hadn’t heard from them since, Cashin said.

An Intermountain Life Flight helicopter sits on its helipad on Jan. 13, 2020 in St. George, Utah. | Photo by Chris Reed

Intermountain Life Flight was then dispatched, with the sky nearly dark when they took off.

“They flew 10 miles down that river,” Cashin said, “looking for people, looking for anything they could find – a camp – they couldn’t find anything.”

In order to search the area, crews walked down the sides of the river – on both sides if there’s access – looking into the river and the sides for footprints or anywhere someone might have come out.

“Seeing anybody in the water is extremely difficult because it’s muddy, but if someone were to crawl out or if someone were to be on the side, it would be easier to spot them and quicker to get to them.”

The search went on until about 9:30 p.m. When Cashin got back into cell service, he said he saw that the manager of the man, suspected to own the ATV, had called. The boss said he was going to go to the man’s house to see if anyone was there.

After going to check, the man called Cashin back and confirmed that the man was home safe with his daughter.

Cashin said the man had tried to cross the river on his ATV and the water swept him away downriver. He managed to get out, shed his wet clothes and drive off with his daughter. It was unclear whether or not the daughter was on the ATV with him.

“That Beaver Dam wash was running pretty good – probably two and a half to three feet deep. And running hard,” he said. “So anybody that tried to cross it, it was going to sweep them down. Even in our pickups we wouldn’t try to cross it.”

Cashin said it’s important to note that people should never cross water when the depth is unknown, which is often the case in desert areas.

“When it floods, it’s the muddy dirt. You can smell the dirt in the air, and the water’s moving pretty hard and fast and you can’t see the bottom,” he said. “Anyone that’s in it, you’re not going to see them.”

You’re better off waiting, he said. In several hours, the water will most likely have calmed down.

A helicopter from the Arizona Department of Public Safety prepares to leave a remote area of Washington County near the town of Motoqua, Utah, on Wednesday, May 23, 2018 | Photo courtesy of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office

“Once you get in it, even though it may not sound like it’s very deep, that two and a half feet of water would have picked up my truck and thrown it down,” Cashin said. “It would’ve thrown it like it was nothing because it piles up on the upside and just starts pushing. You can’t see if there’s holes or strainers in the water.”

A strainer in a river is an obstruction that still allows for the flow of water but isn’t big enough for something like a person or a boat to pass through.

“Those things are fatal,” Cashin said. “If you get caught in a strainer, unless your head’s above water, you will most likely not survive it.”

That’s the concern in situations like these, he said, because there’s a lot of brush, barbed wire and other miscellaneous materials that a person can get caught on.

If a situation arises where you have to get across a river, such as in the case of a medical emergency, Cashin said, “call us, and we’ll help you get across.”

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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