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Nine Hikers Rescued From Backcountry

Zion National Park

National Park News

On Sunday, April 17th, rangers received several calls regarding overdue parties who were on the Subway Route. All were located by 2 a.m. the following morning. While investigating the reports, though, ranger Ray O’Neil noted that one vehicle was still parked at the Left Fork trailhead with a day permit for April 16th. Backcountry permit checks revealed that a party of two had planned to hike the Subway Route via the Russell Gulch technical entrance and that they had not been reported overdue. Initial investigations revealed they were not due to return to work until Tuesday.  The Subway Route and all technical access routes had extremely high water flows over the weekend due to the high country snow melt, and several parties travelling top down were experiencing difficulties. A hasty search was accordingly begun that afternoon. The search continued into Monday, with air support and additional SAR personnel joining in. By Tuesday, a full ICS operation had been established that included 25 NPS ground searchers, air support and two dog teams. During this time, the Subway Route remained open to visitors under the required permit system. Every exiting party was interviewed, but none reported seeing the two missing hikers. A separate report of a single overdue hiker was also received during this time. A request was put into the military for an infrared flight over the Russell Gulch and Subway area on Tuesday evening, and two helicopters were dispatched from Nellis AFB. Before they could arrive, a party exiting the Subway Route received a 911 call, with the caller reporting that a group of nine hikers remained in the canyon due to difficulties in getting through the technical section of the route. The group included all three of the missing hikers. The helicopters were redirected to the Subway Route, where they employed infrared and night vision equipment to locate the group. Two parajumpers descended to them to determine their condition and traveled with them to the trailhead. All missing persons were accounted for, and none required medical attention. They said they’d had serious trouble getting through the water and the narrowest sections of the canyon. The Subway Route has been temporarily closed for safety reasons until further notice.



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