Video shows rescue of family trapped by flood waters in Southern Utah

Mar 16, 2023, 6:39 PM | Updated: Apr 17, 2023, 4:18 pm

WASHINGTON COUNTY, Utah – A Florida family with three young children was trapped by flash flooding in Snow Canyon State Park Wednesday afternoon after a dry wash quickly turned into a raging river.

Luckily, a bystander saw the out-of-town family—with children ages two, four and six—head out on their hike before the floodwaters started to flow. He called for help around 4:30 p.m. once he saw the river form.

“Within five to ten minutes that whole thing went from dry to raging,” said Cody Ballantyne with Washington County Search and Rescue.

Ballantyne describes the rescue as daring and complicated and also a race against time because of the rain, cold temperatures and rising waters.

“The kids were all really cold, shivering uncontrollably, so we were just really worried about them,”  Ballantyne, who is the assistant commander of high-angle rescue team said.

Once rescue crews arrived on scene, they quickly noticed another danger: a large waterfall just downstream from the family that Ballantyne estimated to be a 50 foot drop.

“Anyone that went over that falls it was certain death,” he said. “So we were well aware of that danger.”

The team moved upriver from the waterfall and placed several safety teams in the water in case anyone got swept away. They then went to work to rescue the family.

“We brought blankets across and we started to warm them up, talk to them, console them, be there for them,” Andy Rushton, the assistant commander of swift water rescue team said.

Rushton said the family did everything right by waiting for help because the rushing waters even knocked him and one other rescuer off their feet as they crossed the swift rapids.

“We’re getting pushed downstream 10, 15, 20 feet,” he said. “If that father would have tried to carry his 2-year-old, 4-year-old, and 6-year-old across there was no way it was going to have a good ending to that story.”

Ballantyne and Rushton said rescuers took the mom across first so that the kids would have a parent on each side. They then tried to make it seem like an adventure for the kids so that they wouldn’t be afraid.

“The team pulled me across and brought me the four-year-old female,” Ballantyne explained. “She was really cold, shivering, and really nervous.”

The rescue team made sure that as they transported the children that they didn’t even touch the raging waters below them.

“It was special for me because I do have a daughter that same age and so just holding her and getting her across,” Ballantyne said. “It kind of took on like it was my own child and just wanted to keep her safe and want to hold her close.”

The rescue operation was successful and everyone was carried to safety. The all-volunteer team said it was a proud moment to help a family in need and that they felt like all their hard training paid off.

The search and rescue team said spring break season is a very busy time for them and they remind those visiting Southern Utah to always be aware of the potential for flash flooding.

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Video shows rescue of family trapped by flood waters in Southern Utah