Washington County sees another record-breaking year for search and rescue responses

Rescue crew member Ben Callahan helps lower a man injured while rappelling to safety in Snow Canyon State Park, Utah, Oct. 15, 2017 | File photo by Joseph Witham, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — The Washington County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue team has experienced another record-breaking year, responding to 129 calls for help.

Washington County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue’s high-angle team carry an injured woman to safety after she fell 30 feet in Snow Canyon State Park, Utah, Nov. 20, 2017 | File photo courtesy of Washington County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue, St. George News

“I’m not looking to add anymore,” Washington County Sheriff’s Sgt. Darrell Cashin told St. George News.

Cashin, who is the liaison between the volunteer search and rescue team and the county sheriff, reported to the Washington County Commission Dec. 18 that the team had responded to 128 calls at that time, with an additional call in week since the meeting. This is 27 more responses than crews responded to in 2017.

With a handful of days still left in the year, Cashin said there’s a chance there could be another call or two.

The most recent search and rescue operation involved getting an 85-year-old man and his vehicle out of the snow after getting stuck on a road heading to Kolob Reservoir.

Other operations that have occurred since Nov 21 include:

  • A search for an aircraft that went down in an area covered in sand dunes. While crews searched areas in Washington County that matched that description, it was determined the downed aircraft, a gyro-helicopter, crashed in the area of Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park in Kane County. According to Southern Utah News out of Kanab, the 58-year-old pilot, a Hurricane resident, was uninjured in the crash and was located by passing ATV riders.
  • An incident involving a crashed side-by-side utility task vehicle on Sand Mountain, something Cashin called a “recurring theme,” resulted in one of the riders being flown to Dixie Regional Medical Center by Intermountain Life Flight.
  • An incident involving the retrieval of two women who got lost hiking in the Gunlock area.
  • Calls to aid in the unrelated missing person searches for Nathan Butler and Beau Tsosie.
  • An incident at Kolob Reservoir in which up to 10 pickup trucks got stuck in the mud left over by the draining of the reservoir. While the search and rescue team headed to the reservoir to help get the pickup trucks and their occupants unstuck, Cashin said some Good Samaritans in the area had already helped recover some of the trucks by the time the team arrived.
  • Separate incidents involving the team helping a lost hiker in one instance and an injured hiker off a mountain in another.

“They’re amazing,” Washington County Commissioner Dean Cox said of the county’s search and rescue team, adding a special thanks to the volunteers’ spouses for allowing them to do what they do.

First responders carry a 70-year-old man who was injured while hiking in Snow Canyon State Park, St. George, Utah, May 9, 2017 | File photo by Julie Applegate, St. George News

With the exception of Cashin, the search and rescue team is composed entirely of volunteers who also use their own equipment. Any expenses that are incurred during rescue operations are paid for by a mix of private donations and public funding.

Cashin estimated this voluntary service helped save the county over $201,000 in 2018. Cashin based the monetary savings value on an assumed rate of $25 per hour for full-time search and rescue employees and the 8,000 hours in training and operations crews undertook this year.

That estimate does not account for how much benefits would cost or for the fact that volunteers use personal equipment, which would easily add an additional 40 percent to the overall cost the county saves, Cashin said.

“I can’t say enough about them — they’ve been wonderful to work with, dedicating all their time to go out and help people,” Cashin said. “They’re absolutely wonderful people.”

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @MoriKessler

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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  • utahdiablo December 27, 2018 at 8:36 pm

    Make the rescued people pay for just that, their rescue…the word will get out….many states do just that already

  • Carpe Diem December 28, 2018 at 6:21 am

    10 trucks stuck up in Kolob lake. Sounds like a lemming convention. SMH

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