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Front Page » November 7, 2006 » Local News » Dramatic Emery County rescue to be featured on the Discov...
Published 3,765 days ago

Dramatic Emery County rescue to be featured on the Discovery channel

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Emery County rescuers Greg Jewkes, Ken Eley and Lee Magnuson recreate the dramatic rescue of Justin Harris.

Emery County is a popular spot for hikers from around the world. Many times these hikers come and go without most people knowing they've been here. Sometimes though their stories gain national attention as was the case when Aron Ralston became stuck by a boulder in a slot canyon and as a result amputated his own arm. Another situation which will air on the Discovery Channel is the story of Justin and Jeremy Harris.

The two brothers came to Emery County in Nov. 2003 to hike in the Baptist Draw area. They expected the hike to take a few hours and they had hiking book guides to lead them. But, weather conditions became extremely bad and Justin fell into a pool and shattered his lower leg in six places. Jeremy was already cold and wet from a plunge in a pool of water but it was up to him to go for the help that Justin needed.

Jeremy climbed and walked throughout the night, but missed the side canyon that would lead him out and back to their camp. He walked throughout the night, stopping only long enough to build a fire to warm himself. He fell asleep and was awakened when his clothes caught on fire. He continued on, but finally reached a point where he knew he was hopelessly lost and he had lost his trail notes. He decided at that point to try to go back to where he had left his brother.

It was now daylight and traveling back along the same way he had stumbled through the night before he found the side canyon that led him out. He was then able to locate their camp and summoned help.

The Emery County search and rescue was instrumental in the rescue of Justin. Justin was left behind with a shattered leg and freezing conditions while Jeremy went for help. Justin tried to keep himself coherent by reciting the birthdays of his children and remembering happy times. At one point he felt himself losing touch with reality and he stood up inspite of the pain in his leg. This renewed pain brought him back to the reality of his situation. He also climbed further back under a rock ledge to try to get out of the snow.

The rescue was not an easy one for the Emery County search and rescue team. Jeremy's 911 call went to the Grand County dispatch. They called the Emery County dispatch who then initiated the search for Justin. The call came in at 2:38 p.m. on Nov. 23, 2003 from Grand County.

Deputy Ray Jeffs and BLM officer Don Lum were the first sent to the scene followed by 29 other rescuers from Green River and western Emery County. Jeremy was transported to Castleview Hospital after he gave the rescuers a general idea of where his brother was, "He's out there," said Jeremy. A command post was set up and teams of two were sent out to search.

The Emery County rescuers began the long process of trying to locate Justin beginning about 9 p.m. Some rescuers began walking along the top of the canyon yelling into the canyons to try to make voice contact with Justin. Rescuers were also looking for a way down into the canyon. Four rescuers, found their way down into the canyon. This team rappelled in behind Justin's location.

Voice contact from above was finally made with Justin at approximately 2 a.m. The rescuers couldn't see how far down Justin was in the canyon. It was later determined he was approximately 475 feet down.

The first team into the canyon worked their way down to Justin's location. Layne Potter, McLayne Potter, LaMont Gordon and Diane Chandler reached Justin at 7 a.m. after he had spent approximately 36 hours alone in the canyon.

It was determined to bring him out longer ropes were needed. Some of the rescuers knew the power plant had longer ropes and Huntington power plant provided the needed ropes for the rescue. Ken Eley went down the ropes and a support group stayed on top to pull the others back out of the canyon.

Justin was secured in the rescue basket and raised out of the canyon. They would progress 10-15 feet and then the rigs would have to be rerigged and the slow process would start over again. Eley attended Justin as he was guided up out of the canyon. In addition to being an EMT, Eley is a rope rescue technician. Eley said, "Justin was alert when we were bringing him up. His leg was a real problem, but he had food and water down there and he was a little cold and hypothermic. He was covered with a blanket and was scared, but OK."

Life Flight had been contacted and was waiting at the top for Justin to be pulled out. He was taken to a trauma unit at a Salt Lake hospital where he spent 90 days and ended up losing his lower leg from the ordeal.

After Justin had been taken care of the rescuers spent some time pulling the team from the bottom of the canyon which was a labor extensive process.

Emery County Sheriff LaMar Guymon said, "I can't say enough about our search and rescue team. They are a volunteer team strictly unpaid and they are constantly putting their lives at risk for others. We participate in more than 100 rescues in our area each year of various types. We rescue those who get into problems by accident or inexperience and unfortunate circumstances. People might encounter sudden weather changes or sometimes just a lack of common sense puts them in dangerous situations. Our rescue team will respond willingly no matter what the situation. They sometimes find themselves in dangerous situations that you can't train for, training and experience comes as they perform the needed rescues. They are a capable and confident group which performs in emergency situations by whatever means they have at their disposal.

"In the Harris rescue they knew their ropes weren't adequate and they knew the power plant had rescue ropes and they were willing to let us use them. Many of the search and rescue team members are PacifiCorp employees who also receive search and rescue training at work through their jobs.

"These volunteers are beneficial to the citizens of Emery County and the visitors here," said Sheriff Guymon.

Search and rescue commander, Les Thompson said there are no bells, whistles and sirens when they go out into the dead of night to do their jobs. They just go and do it with little thanks. A lot of those people rescued don't realize the rescuers aren't paid employees and are volunteering their own time and resources to come to their aid.

Eley said, "Everyone brings an expertise to our rescue team. Some people know the desert, others the mountains."

Thompson said, "The Harris rescue really increased the awareness for the equipment that we need to do our job. We've been on a lot of searches much worse than this one. We just get the job done. Our sheriff's office is really good to make sure we get the equipment we need. We have an equipment trailer with everything in it and 4-wheelers, food and water ready to go at a moment's notice. We're usually not called out until people have already been searching all day and we're called out at night as a last effort. It's best to involve us early on so we can put searchers out before the situation becomes extreme."

The program, "I Shouldn't Be Alive: Nightmare Canyon" will air on the Discovery Channel on Nov. 10 at 10 p.m., Nov, 11 at 2 a.m., Nov. 23 at 9 p.m. and Nov. 24 at 1 a.m. These times are eastern time.

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