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Two of seven found dead in Zion National Park after flash flood identified

Posted at 10:15 PM, Sep 16, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-17 00:15:45-04

UPDATE: Officials at Zion National Park stated Thursday that rescue personnel had located the body of the final missing member of the group, bringing the total number of fatalities and bodies recovered to seven.

Previous story continues below:

ZION NATIONAL PARK, Utah -- Search and rescue crews in Zion National Park will be resuming search efforts Thursday morning for a woman who was with a group of seven people caught up in a fatal flash flood in Zion National Park earlier this week. 

The other six people in the group have been found and confirmed to be dead.

Sgt. Steve Arthur was killed while canyoneering in Zion National Park September 14. Image courtesy Ventura County Sheriff's Office.

Sgt. Steve Arthur was killed while canyoneering in Zion National Park September 14. Image courtesy Ventura County Sheriff's Office.

Wednesday, officials in California identified one of those who was killed as Steve Arthur, a 21-year veteran of the Ventura County Sheriff's Office. A press release states Sgt. Ventura and his wife, Linda, were involved in the fatal flash flood.

The release from Ventura County indicates Linda Arthur is the one member of the group still missing.

The press release states, "Steve was known for his tireless efforts working with local youth both on and off duty and possessed a huge compassion for humanity. Steve is survived by his three adult children and seven grandchildren. Please keep the Arthur family in your thoughts and prayers."

When the group embarked on their canyoneering journey through Keyhole Canyon Monday morning, they were warned that flash flooding could take place.

"Ultimately it is the visitor’s decision as to whether or not they want to attempt that trip,” Park Ranger Therese Picard said. "…We can't judge what a person's ability is, each individual has to decide for themselves.”

Around two o'clock that afternoon, within a 15 minute span, the Virgin River rose from 55 cubic feet per second to over 2,500 cubic feet per second. A flash flood warning was established, and all the canyons were closed, but, for this group, it was already too late.

"For folks that have already started their trip, trying to get word to them and also having multiple canyons within this park, it is not possible to contact everybody,” Picard said.

More than 60 search and rescue personnel from inside the park and the surrounding communities worked to find the missing people. They were all between 40 and 50 years old, visiting from Nevada and California.

"Our crews are going much more slowly, looking through the debris, checking out the high water mark,” Picard said of their efforts.

Park rangers were asked if canyoneering should be restricted if there is even a chance of a flash flood, and they said no.

"During monsoon season, which is what we are in right now, we get that warning every day,” Picard said.

Rangers did say there is no doubt when a permit is granted for canyoneering that the people know exactly what they are getting into from a safety standpoint.

Picard said: "Do you understand what the flash flooding potential is? It is probable today. Do you understand that? Do you understand that some canyons will experience flooding?"