Crews locate missing hikers near Zion National Park

Posted at 11:16 AM, Aug 26, 2013
and last updated 2013-08-26 23:12:30-04

KANAB, Utah - Two Salt Lake area women are recovering after being lost in a southern Utah canyon for more than 24 hours.

Suzy Wheeler-Mang and Christian Delahunty went missing during a multi-day hike near a spot called “The Barracks.”

The remote hike is located just east of Zion National Park. The friends set out Thursday and were expected to return Sunday morning.

“It didn’t really dawn on us that we weren’t going to be able to go home [Sunday] until it got a little bit later, and it was just still down pouring,” Delahunty said. “All of our gear got wet, and we just had to hunker down and find shelter.”

When the two hikers didn’t arrive Sunday morning, their family contacted the Kane County Sheriff’s Office.

“The boyfriend of one of the individuals was able to send us a map,” said Kane County Sheriff’s Sgt. Allan Alldredge. “The exact map that the girls were using on their trip.”

Search and rescue teams set out Monday morning to find Wheeler-Mang and Delahunty… first by air, but when that showed no signs, crews switched to a ground search. Delahunty said they heard the helicopter various times, but weren’t able to signal it. She said they even made a sign saying “help” on the side of a ridge, but it was actually another pair of hikers who helped them back to the trail.

The two are experienced hikers. They’d mapped out their course and had a compass, but they said the lack of marked trails and the elements proved to be more than they were prepared for.

“We relied on my phone for GPS,” Wheeler-Mang said. “The phone got very wet in the river due to a bag that wasn’t perfectly sealed, and that’s what can happen.”

Despite some minor cuts and extreme exhaustion, the two are fine and recovering well. The Kane County Sheriff’s Office said it was also a race against the weather to find the hikers. Evening showers have caused flash flooding in the area, and heavy rainfall would have set back search operations.