WASHINGTON COUNTY (ABC4 News) – As temperatures rise, Washington County search and rescue crews are urging hikers to take extra precautions while out on the trails.
Washington County officials said hiker accidents and injuries are becoming a growing problem for Washington County Search and Rescue teams.
Snow Canyon State Park receives 400,000 visitors every year. Washington County officials said a 13-year-old boy visiting from Iowa fell to his death after free climbing at the park late last month.
“It was quite traumatic not only for them obviously but for my rescuers,” Washington County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue liaison Sgt. Darrell Cashin said. “They had a really difficult time with that.”
Several other hikers suffered non-fatal injuries in the park in March, requiring search and rescue teams. Washington County Search and Rescue teams receive multiple calls a day as the weather gets warmer and urge hikers to prepare for the unknown.
“I’ve had a lot of people we’ve rescued that said, ‘I didn’t think it was going to be me. I didn’t think I was going to be injured. I didn’t think I was going to get lost.’ So think that it is going to be you,” said Cashin.
Officials reported that 132 search and rescues were conducted in Washington County last year, and over 30 search and rescues were needed over the past few months, including four in one day. Typically, half of the search and rescues are needed for locals while the other half are needed for tourists and visitors.
“Really, their safety is their responsibility,” Snow Canyon State Park Manager Kristen Comella said. “The park looks and is very family friendly, but you are going out to areas where certain dangers exist.”
Washington County officials said that if you get lost or disoriented on a hike, call 911 immediately and stay where you are. They also urged hikers to dress in layers, hike in groups, bring at least 1 liter of water per person, and research the trails and nearest roads before setting foot on the trails.
“Just have an understanding of the location it is that you’re visiting, what trails are available, how easy or difficult what you hope to do is,” said Comella.
Sgt. Cashin said the extra moisture from rain and snow this year has made the sandstone more brittle, making injuries even more likely.
Washington County Search and Rescue teams began using drones last year to help locate and talk to lost hikers and even fly them water bottles and other aid, according to Cashin.