2 hikers die in Buckskin Gulch slot canyon from ‘relentless power of flash flooding’

Hikers Gary York, 65, of West Chester Township, Ohio, and John Walter, 72, of Kettering, Ohio, were killed by a flash flood in the Buckskin Gulch area, Arizona, date unspecified | Photo courtesy of the Kane County Sheriff office, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — The Kane County Sheriff’s office is cautioning hikers to take extra precautions after the second body of a pair of hikers was recovered. Both men were killed in a flash flood in a popular slot canyon over the weekend.

On Tuesday, Kane County Sheriff Lt. Alan Alldredge told St. George News that Gary York, 65, of West Chester Township, Ohio, and John Walter, 72, of Kettering, Ohio, were killed while hiking in the Buckskin Gulch area 47 miles from Kanab, Utah.

“Again, we have witnessed the relentless power and danger of flash flooding in Kane County’s slot canyons,” Aldredge said in a news release. “Our condolences go out to the York and Walter families.

Alldredge said the public must always take extra precautions when recreating in slot canyons. He said there is no cell service in that area. He advises people to bring a Garmin GPS SOS type of item or the new Apple phones with a satellite service that can be activated by pushing a button.

“When you’re going into the slot canyon areas, make sure you’re doing a weather check and you’ve got the proper gear,” Alldredge said. “We’re really pushing for people to make sure they’ve got some kind of satellite locator type device.”

The first hiker was discovered by a group of people around 11:30 a.m. on Sunday in the Paria River area. Alldregde said hikers often trek from the White House trailhead to Lee’s Ferry, which can take days. The group reported a deceased male in the canyon. According to a news release, the coordinates provided indicated that they were south of the junction of the Paria River and Buckskin Gulch and about a half mile into Arizona.

The area of Buckskin Gulch, Kane County, Utah, March 13, 2018 | Photo courtesy of Kane County Search and Rescue, St. George News

Alldredge said the Coconino County Arizona Sheriff’s office was notified and launched a joint recovery mission. The Utah Department of Public Safety helicopter stationed in St. George, Utah, transported sheriff’s office personnel to the location of the body. It was recovered, flown to the White House trailhead, and transported to the Coconino County Coroner’s Office.

Monday morning, Kane County Dispatch received a call from the Westchester Ohio Police Department reporting two overdue male individuals. Alldredge said the families of the missing men reported they had spoken to them Saturday afternoon at about 3 p.m. The men indicated they would hike about five miles into Wire Pass and the Buckskin Gulch.

Alldredge said photos sent by the family confirmed that the deceased male in the Paria area was 65-year-old Gary York from West Chester Township, Ohio. The Kane County Search and Rescue team traveled to the Buckskin Gulch area to try and locate the other missing hiker. He said at about 5:00 p.m., search and rescue crews discovered the body of 72-year-old John Walter from Kettering, Ohio.

According to the news release, an investigation found flash flooding in the Buckskin when the two men would have been hiking. It is believed they were caught by surprise and swept away by a rushing wall of water.

Alldredge added that temperatures can be drastically different in the bottom of slot canyons compared with the top areas.

“It will be 110 degrees out on the red slick rock, but when you get down these canyons, you know it could be cold in the water, so make sure you’ve got the proper clothing and gear depending on where you’re going,” Alldredge said.

Alldredge confirmed this is the same canyon where two men from Florida were killed by flooding in March of this year. The news release states that York was carried close to 10 miles down the canyon by the floodwaters, while Mr. Walters was swept away for 7-8 miles.

Other responders include the Utah Department of Public Safety and the Bureau of Land Management.

“The Kane County Sheriff’s office is forever grateful to the many volunteers who have spent so many hours in the last couple of months on these difficult rescue calls,” Alldredge said.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2023, all rights reserved.

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