The red rock canyons, mesas, and stunning landscapes of Southern Utah are among the most alluring in the world. Hikers, photographers, adventurers, and other nature enthusiasts have long flocked to the area, discovering new views and beauty with each shift of light. Unfortunately, both obvious and hidden dangers also lurk in Utah’s high southern deserts that can lead to injury and sometimes death.
34-year-old Douglas Yoshi Vo, from Westminster in Southern California became stuck in a canyon in Zion National Park over the weekend, after flood waters stormed the narrow ravine in which he was hiking, reports the Associated Press.
Vo was hiking Saturday with a companion, whose name was not released, on one of Zion’s most popular trails, the “Narrows,” a deep meandering canyon with steep slick-rock walls, featuring usually shallow pools that must be hiked through, according to National Park Spokesman, David Eaker.
Flood waters rose suddenly and rapidly early on in the hike, however, forcing Vo and his hiking friend to scramble in different directions for higher ground. They became separated on opposite sides of the canyon, both trapped and unable to communicate over the rushing sound of the flood, said Eaker.
According to The Spectrum, State officials said the river started rising around 9:30 a.m., growing from an estimated 46 cubic feet per second to 4,020 cubic feet per second. Trapped on opposite sides of the river, Vo and his friend waited until approximately 4 p.m., hoping the waters would recede.
When they didn’t, Vo’s friend swam for it through the still flooding river in the late afternoon. Vo reportedly remained where he was.
The friend survived the perilous swim, making it out of the canyon and finding a park ranger by 6:30 p.m. Rescuers considered trying to get Vo out, but determined the canyon flooding was still too dangerous to safely attempt a night rescue. At the same time, officials also believed Vo was in a safe spot, as did Vo’s friend, who told rangers that Vo was still stranded on the canyon perch to which he’d escaped, but wasn’t hurt or in distress.
But Vo had disappeared from where he’d been before when rangers arrived at the spot Sunday morning. The continuing search that followed led to Vo’s body being found a quarter-mile down the canyon on the river’s bank about 2 p.m.
“We don’t know if (Vo) decided to swim as well or if he fell in,” said Eaker, also noting that many people have lost their lives in the “Narrows” over the years, the most recent, previous to this weekend’s tragedy, being the 2010 attempt by two people to navigate the river on a makeshift raft.
Vo’s death is a reminder of how dangerous the otherwise beautiful area can be. While flash flood warnings were posted Saturday morning, flash floods being a common and dangerous feature of the area, it is believed Vo and his friend set out on their hike before any signs were posted at the “Narrows” trail head.
According to Eaker, no one else is believed to have been in the canyon when Saturday’s flood occurred.
Zion National Park and Southern Utah have been getting pounded by late summer rains, many Zion park roads made impossible to cross not just this weekend, but also earlier this month due to hours-long deluges and a resulting overflowing river.
Images via Wikipedia