Rescue video captures Florida man saved from flooded southwest canyon, 2 friends killed identified
Video from the Utah Department of Public Safety shows the moments one Florida man was pulled from a flooded slot canyon near the Utah-Arizona border where his two friends lost their lives.
The Kane County Sheriff’s Office said Ed Smith, Jeff Watson and Bill Romaniello set out for a 45-mile hike on March 10 in the Buckskin Gulch, the longest slot canyon in North America.
“When they had not contacted their families by Monday morning, one of their wives called to report them overdue,” a press release read.
Kane County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue personnel began preparing for a response to the area. The Utah DPS helicopter was requested out of St. George, and a second with hoisting capabilities was dispatched out of Salt Lake City. The helicopters arrived a little after noon and started searching the canyon.
2 MEN FOUND DEAD NEAR UTAH-ARIZONA BORDER AFTER CANYONS FLOOD
“Atmospheric river” storms swept parts of the western U.S. the weekend the men were hiking, and raised the water level in the canyons before additional floodwaters spilled into the slot canyons.
Around 5 p.m. DPS located a lone individual using their infrared camera. A responder was lowered into the canyon to hoist Smith out. He was extremely cold and weak but was able to say Saturday morning his group was hit by a flash flood that carried them downstream.
Smith and Watson were able to regroup and search for Romaniello but separated due to Watson dealing with a leg injury. Smith continued on to search for help.
HIKER DIES ON ARCHES NATIONAL PARK TRAIL IN UTAH, SECOND DEATH WITHIN A MONTH
Crews found Romaniello’s body on March 13. Watson was found dead two days later.
The trio worked together at the Orthopedic Medical Group of Tampa Bay, according to the business’ website. Smith is a chief clinical officer. Watson was an orthopedic surgeon, and Romaniello was director of sports medicine.
“Tragedy has hit the practice, and it is with profound sadness that we share the loss of Dr. Jeffrey Watson and William Romaniello, ATC, two pillars of the practice that leave an incredible legacy and monumental void in the hearts of everyone that knew them,” the Orthopaedic Medical Group of Tampa Bay posted to Facebook.
After being called for the initial group of three, the Department of Public Safety helicopters helped extract 11 other people last week who were stuck in frigid floodwaters and had called for help.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.