Washington County Search and Rescue crews are urging the public to avoid tubing or rafting on high waterways following an accident Tuesday night on the Virgin River.
Officials said rescue crews were called to the scene at the Man O War bridge after witnesses heard a woman screaming from the river. They said the 29-year-old woman set her raft in the water at the Bloomington gauge, forgot to plant her feet, and was quickly carried away.
“I wondered, ‘Where is she gonna get out?’ I wouldn’t go down to the water, especially by myself,” witness Bayli Arner said. “It was kinda scary that she went by herself.”
St. George police and fire crews arrived at around 8 p.m. while a man rescued her from the water.
Officials say that unless tubers, rafters, and kayakers are trained to navigate swift water, they should avoid main channels completely, and hikers should only stay in water below their knees; just six inches of water can sweep them off their feet.
“When you think you’re on stable ground, it can take you and it won’t let you up,” said Gunlock State Park manager Jon Allred.
The Bloomington gauge of the Virgin River is currently running at 954 cubic feet per second, which is 2 or 3 times higher than normal for this time of year.
Officials say residents often underestimate the force of water moving that fast and panic if they fall in, trying to stand up too soon or in unsafe areas.
“There was a tuber in the river that got up and ended up in quicksand, and he was stuck in there for three hours before they got him out,” said St. Darrell Cashin, Washington County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue liaison.
Crews recommend bringing a life jacket and a water helmet to avoid head injuries from rocks and facing down river, so people’s feet can fend off rocks. They say that if people fall in, they shouldn’t stand up until they can touch the bottom of the river with their hands.