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Missing mountain biker found on Swell

A Department of Public Safety helicopter picks up the lost biker.

Emery County Sheriff's Office Dispatcher Tosha Barnett received a call at 3:43 p.m. on May 13 stating that a member of a mountain bike party had gone missing. Emery County Sheriff's Office personnel Lt. Gayle Jensen, Sgt. Mitch Vetere and Deputy Michael Jorgensen, together with personnel from the National Park Service responded to the Keg Point area in the southeast corner of Emery County, just north of the popular Horseshoe Canyon petroglyph panel.

The reporting party stated that their group was riding mountain bikes in a slick rock area when they lost sight of 18-year-old Sam Spirio-Johnston of Salt Lake City. The reporting party stated that Johnston had wrecked on his bike a couple of days ago, so they thought he was just being extra cautious and lagging behind. Personnel began searching the roads and trails in the area by foot.

Jody Cox, a pilot from the Huntington Airport, flew Emery County Sheriff Greg Funk over the area in a fixed-wing plane. They searched the area until dark but were unable to locate the missing man.

On May 14, personnel from the Emery County Sheriff's Office and Search and Rescue Team, and BLM personnel arrived on scene to search the area on dirt bikes and ATVs. Sheriff Funk, Wade Allinson and Jim Jennings searched on dirt bikes. Ken Eley, Greg Jewkes and Ben Orgill searched on ATVs. The reporting party also searched by mountain bike. Rescuers were prepared with technical rope rescue gear in case the missing man was located in a ravine. A DPS helicopter was also dispatched to assist in the search.

DPS helicopter pilot Kent Harrison transported Emery County Sheriff's Office personnel Capt. Kyle Ekker and Sgt. Tom Harrison, along with Jason Jewkes of the Search and Rescue Team for the air search. Sgt. Harrison spotted a mountain bike by a ravine on the south rim of Keg Canyon. The helicopter landed and the bike, with a flat tire, was identified as that of the missing man. The helicopter resumed flight and guided land searchers to the bike's location, where the ground search continued. The DPS pilot resumed flight and flew down the drainage of Keg Canyon. As the helicopter exited the mouth of the canyon, searchers spotted three canoes full of people waving. The helicopter circled and the people in the canoes begin pointing their paddles to the top of the cliffs. The pilot gained altitude and located the missing man who was standing on the rim and waving. The subject was coherent and appeared to be in good condition. He was transported by helicopter to the landing zone, examined by Search and Rescue Captain Brad Reed who is also an EMT, and was then given food and water.

Johnston explained that he had fallen behind his group and had gotten thirsty. He went down to the Green River to get a drink, and when he got back to the slick rock area he went the wrong direction. He found a place to sleep, and when morning arrived he began walking but kept getting ledged in. He was located 3 miles (as the crow flies) from where he abandoned his bike.

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