Sept 18 Seven hikers swept to their deaths in a
rain-swollen canyon in Utah's Zion National Park were warned in
advance that flash floods were forecast as probable but obtained
a park permit for the outing anyway, park officials say.
The overall death toll from Monday's flash floods in
southern Utah rose to 20 on Thursday with the recovery of the
seventh hiker's remains and the body of a man reported missing
by his parents in the small town of Hurricane.
Officials named the seven deceased hikers on Friday and
published a photo the group took of themselves before venturing
into the narrow and challenging Keyhole Canyon in the eastern
part of the park. (1.usa.gov/1KlBfFo)
The smiling hikers, who were all in their 50s, are clad in
hard hats and backpacks, and several are wearing wet suits to
tackle the route, which involves swimming through pools of water
and rappelling down steep gorges.
Park officials said six were from the Los Angeles area and
one was from Mesquite, Nevada.
The group's leader had experience exploring Keyhole and
other canyons, said Cindy Purcell, Zion's chief park ranger.
She said the group obtained its permit for the trip early on
Monday, even though they were advised the National Weather
Service had forecast a 40 percent chance of rain and the
probability of flash flooding in the park.
"The ranger who handed that permit to that man said, 'I
would not go today,'" Purcell said on Thursday. "However, the
people who go make the choice, they sign the paper that says
that it is their safety and their responsibility."
She said rangers would only decline to issue a permit if an
official flash flood warning was posted. The NWS did issue such
an advisory that day, but only after the group had already set
out, she said.
The 20th fatality from Monday's floods, a 33-year-old man
from Hurricane, Utah, was found in Arizona almost seven miles
(11 km) from the Utah border, and six miles (10 km) from his
In Hildale, Utah, on the sparsely populated border, crews
were still searching for a 6-year-old boy missing since a wall
of water swept away two cars packed with occupants on Monday,
killing at least a dozen people.
"Even though search areas have been covered, they need to be
searched again multiple times," Washington County officials said
in a statement. "The goal: Bring Tyson Black home."
(Reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles, David Schwartz in
Phoenix and Daniel Wallis in Denver; Editing by Eric Beech)