A Virginia man died and two others were rescued while canyoneering over the weekend at Utah's Zion National Park, officials say.
The park’s Technical Search and Rescue Team responded to an emergency call at the exit of Heaps Canyon early Sunday morning and found the man suspended from a rope about 260 feet above Upper Emerald Pools and the others stranded on a rock perch nearby, the park said in a news release.
The victim, identified as 31-year-old Andrew Arvig of Chesapeake, Virginia, was lowered to the ground and later pronounced dead by a doctor, according to officials.
The group started their trip on Saturday morning in Heaps Canyon but they had difficulty navigating the last few rappels in the canyon, park officials said.
Arvig was the first to exit Heaps Canyon but he rappelled past a small rock ledge where he needed to land and reanchor his rope to then rappel down to the ground. He was unable to ascend the 20 feet back to the perch, according to the news release.
The two canyoneers stranded on the perch used a cellphone to contact Washington County dispatchers. Rescue crews helped them rappel safely to the ground.
Website Canyoneering USA describes Heaps as a strenuous journey full of technical difficulties.
The Washington County Sheriff’s Department and the National Park Service are still investigating the cause of Arvig’s death.
“All of us at Zion National Park extend our sympathy to the Arvig family for their tragic loss,” Superintendent Jeff Bradybaugh said.
More than 30 rescuers were involved in the operation including a technical rescue team, a helicopter dispatched from Grand Canyon National Park and a Life Flight helicopter and crew from St. George, Utah.
This has been the busiest year on record for search and rescue crews at the sprawling park. Typically there are about 110 major search and rescue missions, but more than 160 were reported as of October, the Salt Lake Tribune reported.
Last year, a 38-year-old California woman vanished at the park and was located nearly two weeks later. Holly Suzanne Courtier's daughter said in a statement at the time that her mother injured her head on a tree and as a result was too weak and disoriented to seek out help and went “without food” for the 12 days she was lost.