Washington County rescuers overwhelmed by calls for help

Southern Utah

WASHINGTON COUNTY, Utah (ABC4 News) — Search and rescue teams in Washington County say it’s been a taxing time this Memorial Day weekend after they responded to a record-breaking five calls in one day on Sunday to help injured people out recreating, including one who passed away.

ABC4’s Katie Karalis met Sgt. Darrell Cashin, liaison of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue, who said Sunday’s rescues all came within a five-hour span. The first two calls starting around 11:33 a.m. came just seven minutes apart, and the last two calls around 4:15 p.m. came just four minutes apart, according to officials.

“I’ve never seen five calls in one day in my eight and a half years of doing this,” Cashin said. “It’s just never happened. I think of: What’s it going to be like in two years, five years, 10 years?”

ABC4’s Katie Karalis with Sgt. Darrell Cashin

As of 3:30 p.m. Monday, Washington County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue responded to two additional rescues near Virgin and Hurricane, bringing the total for the four-day weekend to seven.

Monday’s first call involved a 16-year-old female who transported to Dixie Regional Medical Center after she was thrown from a horse and sustained potential back and neck injuries, according to Cashin. The second involved a woman and her kids hiking, according to officials. The woman’s phone sent an emergency signal, but SAR teams located the group, who was uninjured.

Cashin tells ABC4 News a day like Sunday has been one of his biggest concerns, with so many back-to-back calls quickly tying up resources and burdening his 70 volunteers. He said Sunday’s five calls were all medical assists, from hikers becoming injured on trails to a UTV accident at the Sand Dunes at Sand Hollow State Park.

Courtesy: Washington County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue
  • 11:33 a.m. — Hiker at Red Cliffs Recreation area sustained ankle and leg injuries. Search and rescue crews helped transport the patient back to the trailhead.
  • 11:40 a.m. — Hiker at Anasazi Trail sustained ankle and leg injuries. Search and rescue crews helped transport the patient back to the trailhead.
  • 1:38 p.m. — A mountain biker from Northern Utah died of suspected cardiac issues while riding the Bearclaw Poppy trail. Search and rescue crews helped transport the patient back to the trailhead.
  • 4:12 p.m. — A UTV rolled at Sand Hollow State Park Sand Dunes, injuring the riders. Search and rescue teams helped access and transport the patients.
  • 4:16 p.m. — Dispatch receives a call from the mother of a A 1-year-old toddler who was having difficulty staying conscious and reported as “extremely ill” while camping in the Little Creek recreation area. Search and rescue teams helped provided medical support and transport the patient to incident command, where an ambulance was waiting.

Sgt. Cashin says he’s never seen so many people out recreating in Washington County before, which he believes has skyrocketed the amount of rescues, adding that he doesn’t believe the number of calls will slow down until temperatures become “so hot people can’t stand to go outside.”

Red Reef Trail in Red Cliffs Conservation Area on 5/23

“That’s a lot to ask volunteers to do,” Cashin said. “That’s a lot to ask paid people to do.”

Washington County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue officials say their teams will likely need to move to a hybrid that includes some paid staff supporting volunteers, but with economic concerns due to the COVID-19 pandemic, crews said it’s not on the table right now.

This weekend’s rescues has brought the total number of calls to 70 so far in 2020, officials said.

Sgt. Cashin said if the amount of calls continues at the current rate, Washington County will likely see a record of 150 to 160 rescues by the end of the year.

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