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Crews detail dramatic rescue of boys trapped in Utah canyon

Posted at 12:03 PM, Jun 13, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-13 14:12:52-04

SALT LAKE CITY — Days after a dramatic rescue of children stuck in a Utah canyon, crews were debriefing the operation that involved hoisting nearly 20 people to safety in Garfield County.

The youth group, made up of mostly 11- and 12 year old children and their leaders, was caught overnight in Sandthrax Canyon located just east of Capitol Reef National Park. A rescue involving the Department of Public Safety began Friday morning and was successfully wrapped by noon.

Raw video below shows dramatic rescue of youth group from Garfield County canyon

Video shows thrilling rescue of youth group from Garfield Co. canyon

Video of the harrowing rescue was taken from the helmet cam of Sgt. Nick Napierski.

“We do this literally every, single day. This is the biggest one we’ve had," said Napierski on Monday.

Napierski's crew was asked to come down by Garfield County Sheriff Danny Perkins. He said operations like the one last week do not succeed without all the training and hard work that goes on behind the scenes, every single day, to make sure the helicopters are in tiptop shape

“We’ve got mechanics that are second to none that go through this and touch and feel and look at every nut, bolt, screw and rivet on this helicopter every single day and ensure that this machine is going to keep running and doing what it supposed to do when we’re in these type of precarious spots,” explained Napierski.

As potentially dangerous and exhausting as this operation was, Napierski said one of the boys who was rescued really inspired him. A 12-year-old who, when it was his turn to be hoisted out, deferred to the boy behind him and helped Sgt. Napierski get that boy and at least a dozen others ready to be hoisted out before he himself finally left the canyon.

“Gave him a patch and told him, get with us in a few years when you’re a little older and see if we can find a spot for him, he was an incredible young man,” Napierski said.

Sandthrax Canyon is regarded as one of the more technical and difficult climbs in the entire state, and only experts should even consider attempting the trek.

“It was a super bad situation and we’re just happy we were able to come down, step in and bring a resolution to it and get everybody home to their families,” said Napierski.