Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Multi-agency effort at Waterholes Canyon rescues stranded German tourist

35-year-old hiker, stranded for 2 1/2 days, reported missing by his wife in Zurich, Switzerland
Flagstaff, AZ- In a joint effort between The Coconino County Sheriff’s Office, Page Fire Department and the Arizona Department of Public Safety, a German tourist was rescued out of Waterholes Canyon on Monday after having been trapped in the canyon for two and a half days.  Waterholes Canyon is a difficult slot canyon some five miles south of Page and is a tributary to the Colorado River .
On Monday, Feb. 20, at about 2 a.m., the CCSO received a report of a possible missing hiker in the Waterholes Canyon area approximately three miles south of the city of Page , AZ. 
The 35-year-old man, of Zurich Switzerland, entered the canyon about noon on Friday with the intention of going just beyond the first rappel.  He carried one short length of rope that he used to go down the first dry waterfall.  He sustained rope burns to his hands during this maneuver and was then unable to climb back up the rope to return to his vehicle. He also injured his ankle at this time.  The injured hiker continued down the canyon using other ropes that he found hoping to reach the Colorado River .  When he came to a 400 foot drop, he knew he was stuck in the canyon.  With no cell phone reception, he began to wait for rescue. 
The hiker’s vehicle was located at the canyon trailhead near Hwy 89 at milepost 542 by the Navajo Police Department earlier that morning after receiving a missing person report from the subject’s wife in Switzerland.
A supervisor for the Page Division of the CCSO and an Arizona Department of Public Safety officer responded to the rim of Waterhole Canyon and began walking to known locations and calling out to the overdue hiker.  At about 5:45 pm, just beyond the second set of drop-offs, the deputy and officer made voice contact with the hiker.  Meanwhile CCSO Sheriff’s Search and Rescue personnel were activated and their technical rescue team was en route to the area.  DPS Air Rescue out of Flagstaff was also called for assistance.  When rescuers arrived at the scene, they were quickly met by Page Fire and a Unified Command was established. 
Eventually three rescuers descended into the canyon and established contact with the victim.  He was evaluated and treated for his injuries and also given warm dry clothing and warm fluids.  The hiker was then assisted back to the rim of the canyon and taken to a Page hospital for treatment of his injuries.  He was later transferred to Flagstaff Medical Center for continued evaluation and care.  
In all, 21 responders were on the scene and spent approximately 215 combined hours on this mission, utilizing six full-sized vehicles, two UTVs and one helicopter during the rescue.

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