Drone helps rescuers retrieve hiker stranded on a ledge in Snow Canyon

ST. GEORGE — A search and rescue operation Wednesday night in Snow Canyon State Park involving a hiker stuck on a ledge was aided by the use of a drone.

The technical rescue crew of Washington County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue team aids a hiker stranded on a ledge in Snow Canyon State Park, Ivins, Utah, Jan. 9, 2019 | Photo courtesy of the Washington County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue team, St. George News

Members of the Washington County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue team were sent to Snow Canyon following a call made to emergency dispatchers around 5:20 p.m. from a pair of hikers in the area.

The hikers said they heard someone shouting that he was stuck on a ledge and needed help, Washington County Sheriff’s Sgt. Darrell Cashin said.

The search and rescue team arrived in Snow Canyon just as the sun was setting and met with the hikers who made the call. They led the team into the West Canyon area of the park where heard they man shouting.

He was about 60 feet up the cliff side, Cashin said.

The man, 60, was cold but otherwise in good health. He did not have a phone or other other means of communication with him at the time, which resulted in his calling out when he got stuck, Cashin said.

The man had become “ledged up,” Cashin said. According to the search and rescue’s Facebook page, being ledged up happens “when someone can no longer progress safely and is unable to return back the way they came. For example: sliding down a slope you are unable to climb back up unassisted and discovering a cliff that prevents you from continuing down.”

The technical rescue crew was able to climb up to the man’s location and repel him down off the ledge to safety.

While the rescue was taking place, the search and rescue team used a drone to provide a light source that lit up the side of the ledge where the technical rescue crew was operating.

“It was pitch black out there,” Cashin said, adding that it’s easy to get lost in a place like Snow Canyon with no light to help guide you.

In addition to providing an extra light source, the utility drones are used to help locate lost individuals, send messages to those people when found and transport small items like a radio or a bottle of water to them.

“It’s becoming an aid in our search and rescue operations,” Cashin said.

The operation in Snow Canyon concluded by 7:30 p.m.

The man told rescuers he went off the trail he had been on and got lost, Cashin said.

The search and rescue call in Snow Canyon State Park is the third so far for 2019. Last year was a record-breaker for search and rescue calls with 132 compared to the 101 of the year prior.

As with this incident and others the search and rescue team responds to, Cashin advises both residents and visitors who want to enjoy the outdoors to be prepared and to let others know where you’re going before you leave.

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Email: mkessler@stgnews.com

Twitter: @MoriKessler