ZION NATIONAL PARK (ABC4 News) – Search and Rescue crews at Zion National Park are warning visitors to stay at least 10 feet away from swift water after a 12-year-old boy and two adults were swept away in the Virgin River Tuesday.
Daniel Fagergren, chief ranger at Zion National Park, said a boy was playing along the beach at the Temple of Sinawava when he was swept away by the force of the current.
“His mother went in after him and also get swept down,” Fagergren said. “Then a bystander witnessing the whole scene went in after the boy as well, and she got swept down.”
Fagergren said the mom was able to help her son onto a boulder, then she held onto it for support. With temperatures at 49 degrees Fahrenheit, SAR teams said they feared she would quickly suffer from hypothermia.
“I would say another five or ten minutes and she would’ve not been able to hold on much longer,” Fagergren said. “She probably would’ve been swept down.”
SAR crews said they rescued the mom and her son while bystanders rescued the second woman. Fagergren said no one was hurt.
Zion National Park ranger Eugenne Moisa said visitors should avoid going in after someone who’s been swept away in swift water and instead wait for search and rescue crews to arrive.
“The water flows so fast and can sweep you and take you downstream very quickly,” Moisa said. “Sometimes it can become fatal.”
Moisa said the Virgin River is moving at 210 cubic feet per second. Access to the river, including the Narrows, will remain closed until water reduces to 150 cubic feet per second for 24 hours.
Park rangers said they expect it should take another week or two for the water levels to come down to safe levels.
Visitors are encouraged to check the current conditions for river flow at https://waterdata.usgs.gov/usa/nwis/uv?09405500 and https://www.nps.gov/zion/planyourvisit/conditions.htm for the most up to date park information.