ST. GEORGE — The man injured near Gunlock Reservoir on Wednesday jumped into the water to save his son.
According to witness Tom Gibb, the man – identified only by his first name, Brendan – was visiting the park with his family, including his 7-year-old son. Gibb said the little boy was walking with his father at the edge of the water when his son took a wrong step and slipped.
The boy was “immediately taken in” to one of the quicker rapids and carried toward the bottom of the falls, he said. What happened next prompted Gibb to call Brendan a hero.
“His dad didn’t even hesitate. He jumped right into the rapids, just dove right in, and grabbed him.”
After Brendan got a hold of his son, Gibb said the fight wasn’t over. Brendan kept his son above the water as he was “pummeled” against the rocks by the strong current while fighting to keep from going over into faster, narrower waters.
Gibb was at the base of the falls and the closest person to the incident. As one of the only people with access to where Brendan and his son were fighting for their lives, Gibb said he helped pull them out of the water while other witnesses contacted first responders.
The most inspiring part, he said, was witnessing how Brendan would have given anything to ensure the safety of his son. When Brendan jumped into the water, he fractured a vertebra in his back, but despite the pain, Gibb said he was only worried about his son.
“That guy didn’t care that his back was fractured. Over and over again he said, ‘I don’t care what’s going on with me. Will you make sure that my son is okay?’”
Gibb stayed with Brendan and his son for about an hour while Washington County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue crews worked to reach the group as they waited on a rock embankment in the middle of the rapids.
Brendan was transported to Dixie Regional Medical Center via ambulance where he underwent surgery as part of the treatment for his injuries. Later that night, Gibb went to visit with Brendan and his family at the hospital. He said he will “keep in contact with Brendan forever.”
“This is a family event that really went south,” Gibb said. “If he hadn’t jumped in the water, I’m convinced his son probably would have went down the falls.”
The Gunlock Reservoir has overflowed for the first time in a decade, creating waterfalls that State Parks Spokesman Devan Chavez said thousands of people have visited. Recently, there has been a significant spike in incidents, Chavez said in a news release Friday.
In the past three weeks, one person has died and three have been seriously injured while recreating in the falls area.
Since the latest incident involving Gibb and Brendan, Utah State Parks has placed signs along the trails and on the dam near the falls to remind visitors of the danger. However, Chavez said the “responsibility rests with individuals and families to use discretion and to recreate safely.” Park staff will also be more readily available to help visitors remain safe and enjoy their time at Gunlock State Park.
Water began to flow down the falls in March, and Chavez said park officials estimate the waterfalls will stop flowing in the next few weeks.
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