Officials urging hiking safety after recent increase in rescues

Posted at 1:48 PM, Aug 10, 2015
and last updated 2015-08-10 15:52:38-04

SANDY, Utah - Unified Police said they have already saved more hikers for this time of year than ever before.

They rescued three hikers over the weekend which adds to the climbing rate of saved hikers this year.

"This is more than what we normally have," Unified Police Lt. Lex Bell said.

Since June 1, authorities have saved 30 hikers, and on average, each year they save 70 to 90 hikers.

"That 30 in a 2-month time period is one every other day, that's a lot for us," Lt. Bell said.

Three hikers were flown out Saturday and Sunday.

One man had fallen in the lower falls area of Bells Canyon.

A good Samaritan hiker, who happened to be a trauma surgeon, stayed with him until rescuers came.

Police say he fell about 70 feet and broken several bones, including his skull and neck area.

Sunday, two women hiking near Brighton Ski resort got trapped and one had to be flown out.

"Both were just ill prepared hikers; both were avoidable," Lt. Bell said. "Both of them stayed on the mountain too late and then it got dark. Both of them got off the trail in an area they were coming down thinking they could take a shortcut. Bushwhacking. Both cases had less than 20 percent cell phone battery power left."

Lt. Bell said they use cell phone technology to locate hikers but when many drain their cell phone batteries while out, rescuers have difficulty finding them.

"A lot of times people go hiking and use their phones to take pictures to broadcast via social media which is fine; however, once you become stranded or need help, that becomes an issue," Bell said. "We have had people literally, as they are being rescued, people are calling family members or they are posting on social media things like, 'Hey search and rescue is coming to get me.' Not smart."

Police said a lot of hikers use their cell phones as flashlights which drains the battery.

Officials said hikers should buy a real flashlight to use instead.

That way their phone battery can be saved for emergencies.

They also advise hikers keep cell phones in airplane mode so it does not search for service during the hike and drain the battery.