Protective equipment key to survival for seriously injured motorcycle rider rescued in Warner Valley

ST. GEORGE — The motorcyclist reported missing on Sunday and found seriously injured at the bottom of a 20-foot slot canyon in the Warner Valley area 20 hours later has been identified as Washington City Police officer who remains in the hospital in serious condition.

File photo of injured rider who was found in serious condition by the Washington County Sheriff’s Search and Search team after being reported missing in Warner Valley where he fell into a slot canyon while riding through the area, Washington County, Utah, March 13, 2023 | Photo courtesy of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, St. George News

Brad Coleman, 41, was reported missing after he failed to make it home Sunday evening after a motorcycle outing in the Warner Valley area. He was not initially identified — at the request of the family — when the Washington County Sheriff’s Office released a statement Monday that recounted the rescue effort.

Washington City Police Chief Jason Williams told St. George News that Coleman was out riding in the Warner Valley area Sunday morning and crashed near the Dinosaur Tracks, an area less than five miles from where his truck had been parked.

Williams said Coleman left his home just after 8 a.m. Sunday and headed out there to meet up with friends who were planning to go on a ride together, but for whatever reason, they were not able to meet up, so Coleman went on the ride by himself.

Williams also said that Coleman was wearing a full set of riding gear when he left his home that morning,  including pads, a chest shield, helmet and gloves — a decision that would later save his life, he said.

Later that same evening, Williams said the family knew something was wrong when they had not heard from him, and when Coleman failed to return home, they called and reported him missing shortly after 9 p.m.

Emergency dispatch then contacted Washington County Search and Rescue Sgt. Darrell Cashin, who told St. George News he received the call notifying him of the situation a little before 9:30 p.m. and said he assembled his search teams that were on the ground less than 40 minutes later.

He also requested assistance from Star 9, a Utah Department of Public Safety helicopter that was deployed from the St. George Regional Airport, as well as Intermountain Health’s Life Flight that also assisted in the search.

Fairly quickly, Cashin said, the pickup truck that Coleman was driving was spotted by one of the DPS pilots, which served as the starting point for the search.

From there, he sent rescue teams of two in several directions to ensure they were covering all possible routes the bike could have gone. He also said that search efforts were hampered by the lack of light, adding that teams were searching a vast, remote area in “complete and utter darkness. I mean it was pitch black.”

Weather conditions continued to deteriorate and soon it became too dangerous to continue. By 3:30 a.m. Monday, the search temporarily was called off.

File photo of area where injured rider in serious condition was found by the Washington County Sheriff’s Search and Search team after being reported missing in Warner Valley where he fell into a slot canyon while riding through the area, Washington County, Utah, March 13, 2023 | Photo courtesy of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, St. George News

“We were searching a very large rugged area in the dark,” Cashin said. “And with so many resources out there, we were still unable to find him.”

Less than four hours later, at daybreak, the multi-agency search effort resumed and was expanded to more than 20 search and rescue members, two helicopters, several deputies, park rangers and many of the rider’s family members and friends.

Search teams split up and searched for the rider on foot, including one of Coleman’s friends who flew a drone low over an area near the Dinosaur Tracks.

The drone captured an image of a motorcycle and the photo was brought back to the staging area where family members confirmed it was Coleman’s.

The Star 9 crew was notified of the find and headed to the location where the bike had been located, and just as the crew flew over the area, they alerted incident command that “they had eyes on the rider and confirmed he was moving,” Cashin said.

One of the DPS flight officers hiked down the 20 feet to the canyon floor to check on the rider and was soon joined by a flight nurse and paramedic who made the trek to the bottom, leaving the Life Flight helicopter where it touched down on the landing.

The emergency flight crew found Coleman “extensively injured and suffering from acute hypothermia,” Cashin said.

Photo of Washington City Police Sgt. Brad Coleman taken shortly after starting with the department in March of 2021 | Photo courtesy of Washington City Police Chief Jason Williams, St. George News

“We kept hearing over the radio — ‘He’s cold. He’s cold. He’s cold,’” Cashin added.

Once the rider was stabilized, he was hoisted up from the ravine, loaded into the helicopter and flown to St. George Regional Hospital in critical condition.

Video footage of Star 9 rescue operation was provided courtesy of Sgt. Cameron Roden with the Utah Department of Public Safety can be seen at the top of this report. 

Cashin said it was not only the injuries that Coleman sustained that were life-threatening; it was that he had spent more than 20 hours in the elements, where he was exposed to frigid temperatures and sporadic showers, which is a deadly combination — particularly for someone with traumatic injuries.

He also said that when the rider was located, he was still wearing his helmet and all of the protective gear, which helped to reduce the hypothermic effects until he could be rescued.

Cashin went on to say that once the bike went off the cliff, both the rider and the bike tumbled down the side of the cliff, causing the rider to suffer a concussion, in addition to significant injuries to his back and lower extremities.

Without that helmet,” Cashin said, “there’s virtually no way he would have been able to survive that fall.”

Williams said that Coleman was in surgery last night and he remains in the hospital in serious condition.

A GoFundMe account was set up by DorthyRose Hadlock to help the family with medical bills and other costs associated with the incident. Hadlock worked with Coleman during his tenure as an officer with the Salt Lake City Police Department and has known the Coleman family for several years, according to the site.

“Brad has helped people in his law enforcement career for the past 15 years. Let’s come together and help him now,” Hadlock wrote.

This report is based on statements from police, emergency personnel or other responders and may not contain the full scope of findings.

St. George News reporter Mori Kessler contributed to this report.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2023, all rights reserved.

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