River Incident Report #9905000096

Date of Incident: June 19, 1999
River: Green
Section of River: Labyrinth Canyon
Location on River: Upheaval Bottom
Relative Flow: High
Gage Reading: 26,700 cubic feet per second
Difficulty: Flat Water
Type of Incident: Hiking and Involuntary Swimming
Injuries: Dehydration and Hypothermia
Type of Trip: Private
Type of Boat: None

A 51 year old man, weight 275 pounds, was hiking on the Syncline Loop Trail with a companion, another male of unknown age. At 17:00 the 51 year old felt he could not proceed because of dehydration and heat exhaustion. The companion instructed his friend to wait, left his remaining water, and started up the trail for assistance. However, the companion also became fatigued, and each spent the night on the trail at different places. The temperature at The Island In The Sky ranged between 88 and 60 degrees, but it was much warmer on the Syncline Loop Trail.

Both men started hiking at first light the following morning: the companion to The Island In The Sky where he reported the situation to a Park Ranger; and the 51 year old, leaving a note on a trail sign, walked three miles down the Upheaval Canyon Trail to Upheaval Botttom (Mile 44.0) on the Green River. While thrashing in the thicket along the bank, the victim fell in the river. Whenever the current carried him close enough to shore, he attempted to hold onto tamarisk branches, but the force of the water prevented him from extricating himself. He continued this activity while he was carried five miles to Tent Bottom (Mile 39.0) where he attracted the attention of a canoe party. The victim was rescued and revived, and then from 14:00 to 16:00 rode with the canoe group to Beaver Bottom (Mile 35.0). There, a vehicle on the White Rim Road was solicited, and the victim was driven to the top of the Mineral Canyon grade and contact with the Park Service at 17:32.

Meanwhile, the Park Ranger dispatched to find the victim at his overnight site found his note instead. He was able to track the 51 year old into the tamarisk near the river, but no further. The search was then expanded, which activity included the use of a helicopter. The helicopter was signaled by the canoe group which had effected the rescue, and news of the victim's impending arrival above the switchbacks at Mineral Canyon was relayed to Park Rangers.

In Retrospect
1) Take advantage of available information before starting a hike. The victim was in good health, but not in good condition and was overweight. The Syncline Loop Trail requires strenuous exertion. This information was available at the Visitor Center at The Island In The Sky.
2) The quantity of water carried was inadequate. One gallon is recommended for this hike at this time of the year; a large person may need more. This information was also available.
3) When one is partly incapacitated, in a secure position, assistance is being sought, and is told to remain in place, he should do so. To hike three miles toward an uncertain objective was unreasonable and indicative of a confused state of mind.
4) Carelessness accompanies confusion, and the plunge into the river was the consequence.
5) The victim was fortunate.

Last updated: March 31, 2012

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