Deputies from the Emery County Sheriff's Office get ready to take the rafters back to their vehicles.
The helicopters fly back from the Wedge after dropping off the rescued rafters.
While the Utah Army National Guard was in Emery County for training they had the chance to participate in a real rescue. Six overdue rafters were reported missing by the wife on one of those on the float trip. The group put in at Fullers Bottom with the intent of floating down to the Swinging Bridge and they expected only to be gone a few hours. The trip did not turn out as planned due to the low water conditions of the San Rafael River. Many places were muddy with extremely low water and the group had to hike and carry their raft as they tried to make it out. They spent the night of June 11 along the river. They were cold due to the lack of a fire. The group was not prepared to spend the night. On Tuesday they resumed hiking. By then news of their plight was brought to the attention of the Emery County Sheriff's Office who enlisted the help of the helicopters to search by air for the hikers. Their general location was known. The air search began assisted by several members of the Emery County Search and Rescue. They located the hikers along the river. They were separated and after the helicopter set down, the other members of the party were located and brought to the helicopter where they were transported to a location near the Wedge Overlook.
One of the hikers/rafters reported she didn't think they were going to make it. "We were exhausted and dehydrated. I really prayed a lot for someone to come and help us. I really thought we were getting near the bottom, but they told us it was another 10 miles out." To the rafters the sight of the helicopters was a welcome relief. Their group was treated for heat exhaustion and dehydration and medical personnel started IV in the field. One of the group was transported to the Castleview hospital. The others were taken by the Emery County Sheriff's Office deputies back to their vehicles so they could return home after they were transported by the helicopter to the Wedge area where they were met by an Emery County ambulance and personnel.
The soldiers are members of the Utah Army National Guard's Second Battalion, 211th Aviation.
In keeping with the Utah National Guard's mission to respond at the request of state and local authorities during emergencies, the 2-211th (Second of the 211th) were grateful to be able to assist in the rescue with such good results.
UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter crews were in the area and were asked by the Emery County Sheriff's office for assistance as they were going to have a mock rescue that morning for a lost child at Joe's Valley, but the training turned into a real time rescue for the stranded rafters.
The Utah Army National Guard unit responded immediately, transporting Emery County search-and-rescue personnel. The 2-211th crew located the missing rafters and landed the helicopter nearby. Emery County Sheriff personnel administered first aid to the tired and dehydrated rafters.
Emery County deputy AJ O'Neil said he received the call on Tuesday morning just as his shift was ending and he went to the Swinging Bridge to try to locate the vehicle of the rafters. They had left a vehicle at the Swinging Bridge and one at Fuller's Bottom. He assisted at the scene when the rafters were rescued along with Deputy Shaun Bell and Sgt. Les Wilberg.