ST. GEORGE, Utah - Search and rescue crews in southern Utah have had a busier than usual year, and so far they’ve responded to almost double the number of calls they did last year, including one on Wednesday night.
The Washington County Search and Rescue team said they responded to 87 calls since January 1, that’s compared to 44 in all of 2014.
“We have been extremely busy this year,” said Washington County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue liaison Darrell Cashin. “My volunteers have gone above and beyond the call of duty this year.”
There’s no clear reason for the increase, other than to speculate mild temperatures in the spring and fall may be bringing more people outdoors.
“It’s been a lot of the same thing we’ve always dealt with,” Cashin said. “A lot of people hiking and getting lost, a lot of people hiking and getting injured.”
A fallen hiker is what crews encountered Wednesday night, and St. George firefighters asked Washington County to assist on the rescue of a 19-year-old man who fell off a 50 to 60 foot cliff while hiking near the Entrada area of St. George.
St George Fire battalion chief Robert Hooper said the man was hiking by himself when he lost his footing and fell.
“He was able to call,” Hooper said. “And he was also able to guide emergency responders to his location, which was in a cliff band.”
Because of the terrain, rescue crews needed set up a high angle rescue to get him out. The injured hiker was air-lifted to the hospital in critical condition.
“He did have significant trauma to his arm,” Hooper said. “A tourniquet did have to get placed on that.”
Cashin said the increased number of rescues has put strain on his volunteer crew. They’ve relied on inter-agency agreements and help from surrounding counties, particularly during the extensive search in Hildale for six-year-old Tyson Black.
This week, crews renewed search efforts along Short Creek. Cashin said recent storms may have moved debris in the flood plain, and they’re going to take dogs back through to look for Black’s body.
Search and rescue crews say the main message to people going out is watch where they’re going, as not to land in a situation where rescue is needed.
But Cashin said even though they’re pushing a record number of rescues: they’ll always respond.