Every day, the National Park Service issues a Morning Report, a daily report of accidents, incidents, operational notes, upcoming trainings, and hiring opportunities across the National Park system. The Morning Report not only provides a more objective, concise report of accidents/incidents (though perhaps less detailed) than we often find in the news, but it can provide great opportunities to learn from others mistakes and remember the degree of risk we must manage in the outdoors. Below are a couple of articles detailing recent serious accidents in Zion’s backcountry. Our continued thanks goes to Zion’s Search and Rescue (SAR) personnel for their efforts they take to prepare and respond to those who need help when their adventures go awry.
Zion National Park (UT)
Boy Scout Dies During Backpacking Trip
On July 21st, twelve members of a Las Vegas-based Boy Scout troop were completing the second day of a planned four day backpacking trip in the park. Corey Buxton, 17, was having difficulty and lagged behind as the group hiked south along the Hop Valley Trail. Around noon, a leader who was hiking a short distance in front of Buxton turned around and did not see him. He hiked five minutes back down the trail to the point where he last saw Buxton, but could not find the boy. Rangers conducted a hasty search that afternoon by foot and helicopter with no success. More than 25 NPS personnel participated in the search the next day. Four dog teams from the Zion K-9 SAR Team, based in Hurricane, Utah, joined the operation. Early in the afternoon, two of the dog teams alerted on a side canyon near the point last seen. Ground searchers discovered Buxton’s body there. It appears that he hiked about 500 feet off of the trail and into the brushy side canyon. A cause of death will be determined by the state medical examiner’s office. [Submitted by Ray O’Neil, Plateau District Ranger]
After much rigorous planning, training and implementation, the park launched its short-haul program with two missions on two consecutive days last week. On Friday, a 61-year-old man from Salt Lake City suffered an angulated ankle fracture while in the upper reaches of the Left Fork of North Creek, an area popularly known as “The Subway.” He was short-hauled out, transferred to an ambulance, and taken to Dixie Regional Medical Center in St. George, with ranger/paramedic Rob Wissinger as his attendant during the operation. On Saturday afternoon, a severe thunderstorm dropped an inch of rain in less than a half hour in some areas of the park, causing flashfloods in several canyons. One was Spry Canyon. The mouth of that canyon is visible from the switchbacks on the main park road. After the storm passed, an off-duty ranger reported seeing a flashing light at the top of the last rappel in that canyon. Two rangers investigated and found that three men had been flushed out of the canyon by the flood; two had been washed over 40-foot and 60-foot drops and a third had been washed over the 40-foot drop and was at the top of the 60-foot drop. Two of the three men had sustained potentially life-threatening injuries requiring immediate evacuation, so a short-haul operation was conducted. The two men were then transferred to two different Classic Lifeguard air-ambulances and flown to Dixie Regional Medical Center, where they underwent surgery. The third injured man was assisted out by foot, then transported by ground ambulance to the medical center. The rescue effort required the use of about 20 park personnel and three helicopters. Paramedic/rangers Wissinger and Brandon Torres were involved. [Submitted by Cindy Purcell, Chief Ranger] Glen Canyon National Recreation Area (AZ,UT)