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Woman recounts harrowing experience being stuck in waist-deep Provo Bay mud

Posted at 5:51 PM, Nov 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-22 19:53:19-05

PROVO, Utah — A Utah County woman is recounting an intense experience after getting stuck in waist-deep mud in Utah Lake for two hours.

The woman is now sharing a message of caution for others who go out on the lake.

A little dirt road off I-15 leads out to a nondescript gravel boat ramp called Mill Race Boat Ramp on Provo Bay. Despite the low-key look, "it is a very popular spot here," said Sgt. Spencer Cannon with the Utah County Sheriff's Office.

People launch their boats to fish, or hunt for duck or geese. Cannon explained the channel from the gravel boat ramp out to Provo Bay is narrow and deceivingly shallow.

"From here it looks like, 'Oh, yeah, it's easy, just follow this out there,'" Cannon explained. "But when you get out there, the main channel is hard to know exactly where it is."

That was one of the challenges 19-year old Autumn and her father faced while scouting for ducks Sunday. Autumn said they launched in the afternoon and made it out to Provo Bay. At one point, she described how they got stuck in the shallow water and used an oar to unstick the boat.

The pair decided to turn around and head back down Mill Race toward the ramp. But halfway down, Autumn said she began to feel really tired because it was slow going and they were fighting the current and shallow water.

Autumn asked her dad if she could get out of the boat and walk the rest of the way back to the truck as she thought it looked like solid ground.

"As soon as I stepped out of boat, I was already sinking," Autumn recounted. "And I was able to pull my legs out to go another step, and I just went further and I was down to my waist. And I'm like, 'Dad, I'm stuck.' I was not able to pull myself out, it was rock hard all around my legs."

Autumn said her dad tried to pull her out, but it was incredibly painful.

As they waited for the Utah County Sheriff's Office Search and Rescue team to respond, Autumn said her legs and feet went numb. She was only wearing thin jegging-type pants and hunting boots.

Cannon said hypothermia began as crews worked to find where exactly Autumn was stuck. They launched an air boat as well as a mud buddy, finally locating Autumn more than 90 minutes after she became cemented in the mud.

Getting her out proved a challenge, as Sgt. Cannon said crews had to be careful not to get stuck themselves.

"They dug around my feet, grabbed the bottom of my boot, and were able to pull it up onto a backboard," Autumn said. She added that rescue personnel were able to eventually pull her out and onto the boat.

From there, the group made it back to shore and loaded Autumn into an ambulance headed for the ER.

"I was really scared, because I didn't feel anything in my legs, that I was going to lose feet, or toes," Autumn shared. "But none of that happened, and I'm so thankful for the rescue crew to be able to get me out in time."

A couple short hours later, Autumn was released from the hospital and said she has recovered. She even still made it to work on Monday morning.

For anyone coming out to Utah Lake to fish or hunt, Autumn and Sgt. Cannon are urging people to stay in their boats and be aware of how shallow the water is in channels and around the six to eight-foot tall reeds and shoreline.

Cannon said some areas only have two-to-three inches of water. As Autumn now knows, the mud can be several feet deep.

"Always be careful," Autumn cautioned. "You never know if you'll get stuck, or hurt, or break a leg and you're out there without cell service. I was even lucky to even have cell service to call 911."