Woman dies after disappearing in Zion National Park flood
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — An Arizona woman has died after she was swept away during flash flooding four days ago at Utah’s Zion National Park, officials said Tuesday.
Jetal Agnihotri, 29, of Tucson, Arizona, was discovered Monday about 6 miles (9.6 kilometers) south of the area where she was swept away by floodwaters, ending a four-day search, Zion National Park spokesman Jonathan Shafer said in a news release.
Her death was announced a day later after it was confirmed by medical examiners. It’s the latest reminder of the dangers of hiking in the narrow red rock canyons in the southern Utah park during monsoon season.
In previous years, similar floods have caused walls of water as tall as buildings, engulfing vehicles, rolling boulders and tearing out trees. In September 2015, seven people drowned in a similar storm in the park and another 12 people died in a nearby town.
Agnihotri was hiking with friends through a well-known slot canyon called The Narrows when the group was swept downstream by flash floodwaters overtaking the Virgin River. While the rest of the group made it to safety, Agnihotri did not, prompting rangers to embark on a search mission that used swift water trained rescuers, search dogs, and more than 170 emergency responders, the National Park Service said.
Both the National Weather Service and Washington County, Utah, had issued flood warnings for the area that day. Agnihotri’s brother told local television station KSL-TV that she did not know how to swim.
Slot canyons in Zion National Park can be as narrow as windows and hundreds of feet deep in certain parts. They are among the destination’s most scenic and visited areas.
But flooding, this year and historically, can transform canyons, slick rocks and normally dry washes into deadly channels of fast-moving water and debris in mere minutes. The National Park Service said floodwaters had increased the amount flowing through the Virgin River by up to 8,229 gallons (31,149 liters) during the monsoonal rains that swept Agnihotri downstream.
“Our deepest sympathy goes out to the friends and family,” said Jeff Bradybaugh, Zion National Park’s superintendent.