Man transported by helicopter after suffering medical episode, staying overnight on West Temple in Zion

West Temple in Zion National Park, Utah, August 2014 | Photo by James Wilson, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — After suffering a medical episode on the West Temple in Zion National Park, a Utah man was flown by Intermountain Life Flight to Dixie Regional Medical Center Sunday morning.

At around 6:40 a.m. Sunday, Zion dispatch received a call from a man, 69, and a woman, 58, who were on the West Temple, Deputy Chief Ranger Andrew Fitzgerald, who also served as the incident commander for the rescue, said in an email to St. George News.

The call was a 911 transfer from the Washington County Sheriff’s Office dispatch and came in via cell phone from the party on the West Temple.

“Cell service is quite good from the top of the West Temple,” he said.

Zion National Park and Life Flight were dispatched to the scene. The weather was clear but windy.

“I don’t know what the wind speeds were at the subject’s location, but at our Emergency Operations Center the winds were 15-20 mph out of the west,” he said.

The man and woman were located on the plateau area below the “Temple Cap” but above the ridgeline, a pretty flat area, where they had spent the night after the man had suffered from a medical illness.

West Temple peaks up in the horizon as a car starts ascending towards the switchbacks of the Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel from the Pine Creek Bridge, Zion National Park, Utah, April 17, 2018 | Photo by Reuben Wadsworth, St. George News

Fitzgerald said getting to their location was extremely arduous. While it is flat on the plateau, manzanita and oak shrub cover the ground, which he said could prevent a helicopter from landing safely.

“It is a dangerous route with massive exposure on loose rock and multiple 5th class sections (areas where rope is required for travel),” he said. “This route sees only a few ascents per year.”

When they found the man and woman, the man was unable to move more than a few feet. He was transported by Life Flight to the hospital. The woman was uncomfortable descending the route on her own, so after Life Flight took the man to the hospital, they picked her up and transported her to the Coal Pits Helispot where Fitzgerald was stationed.

“I then drove her to her vehicle in Springdale,” he said.

Fitzgerald said the man and woman were very experienced and competent. The reason for their need to be rescued was solely due to the medical illness.

“The medical illness was not related to the exertion or the ascent of the route, it just happened at a bad time,” he said.

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