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Elderly Texas couple found alive after being stranded six days in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

Posted at 10:54 AM, Oct 13, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-13 23:36:08-04

KANE COUNTY, Utah — A 76-year-old Houston man and his 78-year-old wife are recovering after they were stranded for six days in Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument.

Gerald and Helena Byler left their Kanab motel on the morning of Tuesday, September 26 for a day trip to Lake Powell. The motel reported them as overdue when they did not return by the next morning.

The couple had become stranded near the junction of Croton and Grand Bench Roads when their rental car "had become undriveable because of the condition of the road they were on," according to a Facebook post by Alan Alldredge, Chief Deputy of Kane County Sheriff's Office. "Helena indicated that after they could go no further in the car, they began walking back up the road. It got dark and they spent Tuesday night out in the rain. Wednesday morning, she left Gerald who couldn’t walk any further, to get help."

Meanwhile, Gerald Byler found his way to an old trailer about half of a mile from the spot where they left the rental car.

Alldredge said Helena Byler suffered hallucinations during the time she and her husband were stranded.

"She recounts stories of talking to dispatchers on the phone, a helicopter coming to pick up her husband, and tales of being in granite buildings and seeing other people who would not talk to her or help her. It appears she may have spent a couple of days in one of the old trailers not knowing that her husband was in another one nearby. The days without food and water caused her to see and hear things that were not real. Even after being released from the hospital, those experiences were very real and vivid to her," Alldredge's post said.

Five days later, on October 2, Dell Lefevre, of Panguitch, was checking on cattle he keeps at the monument when he found Helena Byler, who was dehydrated and confused.

"After contacting a dispatch center, LeFevre transported Mrs. Byler south toward Big Water on the Smokey Mountain Road where he met with a Kane County Sheriff’s Deputy dispatched to meet them. The deputy provided transport to the Kane County Hospital," according to a Facebook post from Alan Alldredge, Chief Deputy of Kane County Sheriff's Office.

After having some water and food, Helena Byler remembered she and her husband leaving the motel.

Once Helena Byler was found, a helicopter crew from Classic Air Medical of Page, Arizona was dispatched to the area, and they spotted an "SOS" sign made of rocks and flowers at the Croton and Grand Bench junction. They also spotted the couple's rental car about three miles east of the "SOS" sign.

"They landed near the car, but did not find Gerald with the car. They worked their way back up the road about a half-mile where there was a couple of old trailers near a corral. They found Gerald in one of the trailers still alive, but like Helena he was very dehydrated and unable to move," the Facebook post said.

The helicopter crew took Gerald Byler to Dixie Regional Medical Center in St. George, where he was immediately placed into the intensive care unit. Helena Byler spent the night in Kane County Hospital in Kanab, and she was then taken to St. George to be with her husband.

As of Monday, Gerald Byler was still in the hospital, but both are expected to make a full recovery and return to Texas soon.

"Thanks to all those who had a part in this incident. Many little things fell into place that allowed the Bylers to be located alive. From LeFevre making the choice to use the road he did, to the cooler weather, and to the assistance of Classic Air Medical. One more day would probably have resulted in a very different outcome," Alldredge said.