Five Salt Lake County boys were rescued Saturday in rugged southeastern Utah after a two-day search. Rescuers said they did "exactly what they had to do" to stay safe and be found.
The five Scouting youths, most of them 14 years old, were on an outing near Natural Bridges National Monument with six other teens and seven adult leaders from the Bennion 8th LDS Ward when they became separated June 25 from the rest of the group.All five boys, identified by the San Juan County Sheriff's Office as Kyle Bickham, Anthony Garrett, Matt Smith, Tim Tappana and Benjamin Woolley, were not hurt and were in good condition when they were found by a helicopter crew.
They were happy to be rescued, said Clarence "Sonny" Hendricks, pilot of the aircraft from Classic Lifeguard III of Page, Ariz.
Hendricks said Saturday's rescue was the latest in a number of similar operations in the area this year and his third. "A couple of surveyors had to be rescued in Canyonlands last week," he said.
Classic Lifeguard III was notified about 2:30 p.m. Saturday of the need for a helicopter. The youths were found about 4 p.m., Hendricks said.
The pilot said the youths were spotted fairly quickly from the air late Saturday afternoon because they had laid out an orange tarp. He said they were found between Natural Bridges National Monument and Hite Marina on Lake Powell.
"All five boys were found together. They did a good job. They kept their heads, didn't wander around, stayed put on the trail and put out a marker so that we could find them readily," Hendricks said.
San Juan County sheriff's deputy Grayson Redd said the group had camped near where Wooden Shoe Canyon enters Dark Canyon, northwest of Natural Bridges.
On Thursday morning, the older Scouts left camp early to hike into Dark Canyon. A short time later the five younger Scouts took off after the other boys. However, at a place where they were supposed to turn left they turned right.
When the adults caught up with the older Scouts they realized the younger boys were lost. Some of the leaders backtracked and spent Thursday afternoon and Friday in search of the younger Scouts.
The leaders and some of the group hiked out of Dark Canyon Friday night and notified National Park Service personnel at Hite Marina. The rest came out Saturday morning.
Redd said San Juan County Search and Rescue personnel began looking for the boys Saturday morning in a 70-mile-long area of rugged canyon wilderness.
Hendricks said temperatures probably hit 95 degrees during the day in the area. He said the youths, who had plenty of food and other supplies and were camped near a spring, were "in great spirits and level-headed. They did the right thing."
Before Hendricks spotted the boys, a park service plane was dispatched out of Page to fly over the area.
"The lost Scouts heard the airplane go over. They put out an orange tarp, built a fire for smoke and flashed a pan (for reflection), but the plane did not see the boys," Redd said.
Bennion 8th Ward Bishop Rod Dean, who was on the trek with other leaders and the youths, acknowledged Tuesday an oversight on the part of the ward in not filing a tour permit as required by the Great Salt Lake Council, Boy Scouts of America.
Council spokesman Kay Godfrey said the council did not know about the missing youths or the search effort until they were contacted by the Deseret News.
"The Scouting skills they exercised were certainly life-saving skills," Godfrey said. "They were certainly smart things to have done, but the smartest thing they did was to return to a known campsite that had water and then stayed put."
Dean said he's grateful the boys were found alive and well.
"It's a miracle. They did exactly what they had to do, to stay put. They went back to where they knew there was water," the bishop added. "We are grateful for the efforts of everyone who was involved in searching for the boys."