The body of a 31-year-old woman was discovered in Zion National Park on Wednesday, one day after she and her husband had begun their hiking excursion. The National Park Service stated in a statement on Thursday that her spouse, 33, reported that he and his wife had become “dangerously cold” overnight and were exhibiting symptoms of hypothermia.
The cause of death is currently under investigation, according to the National Park Service, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, and the Utah Office of the Medical Examiner. The woman was discovered by the Virgin River at the Narrows, the narrowest part of Zion Canyon and one of the park’s most visited locales, by a search team. After finding the woman unresponsive, emergency personnel treated her and then pronounced her dead.
Rescue personnel discovered bystanders helping the guy on Riverside Walk, a paved pathway leading from Temple of Sinawava, a natural amphitheater and shuttle stop, into the Narrows, and brought her husband to the Zion Emergency Operations Center.
Wednesday, visitors informed shuttle drivers in Zion National Park that a man who was hurt and a lady who was not breathing needed assistance in the Narrows. CPR was attempted on the woman by other witnesses.
Woman found dead in Zion National Park during hiking trip with husband https://t.co/IiVl9A1mlJ — be careful out there, y'all! You can easily start a hike in 50-degree weather, only to have it plunge to 20 overnight, and hypothermia is a risk at any temps
— Dr. Andrew / Aure Schrock (@aschrock) November 26, 2022
The man explained to the park officials that the day before, he and his wife had just started a legal 16-mile excursion into the canyon. According to NPS, the husband left the couple’s sleeping area in the morning to go and obtain assistance, leaving his wife behind.
According to the National Weather Service, Zion Canyon experienced temperatures in the 40s and 30s on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.
Following the passing of another hiker, 29-year-old Jetal Agnihotri, in the Narrows this summer during a flash flood, the tragedy occurred. She was discovered in the Virgin River following a several-day search. Hypothermia is one of the stated visitor safety issues on the Zion National Park website. According to the website, submersion in water is the quickest way to shed body heat.
Additionally, “conditions are continuously changing, so make sure you are informed of the day’s weather prediction and flash flood possibility before you begin your hike in the Narrows,” according to the Zion National Park website. “River hiking is extremely risky when flash floods are imminent.”
Long-term exposure to cold temperatures can result in hypothermia, which causes dangerously low body temperatures. Although it is more likely to happen in extremely cold weather, it can also happen in cool weather if a person gets chilled from perspiring, being in the rain, or staying in cold water. A victim of hypothermia might not be aware of its onset because it might develop suddenly.
Stumbling and lack of coordination, excessive shaking, weariness, bewilderment, or slurred speech are all symptoms. Zion National Park advises you to stop hiking and rapidly change out of any wet clothing into dry clothing if you experience any of these symptoms.
The Zion National Park website advises “warm the victim with your own body and a warm drink, and protect the individual from breezes.” To combat hypothermia, it is advised to avoid wearing cotton clothes, which do not give insulation when wet, and consuming “high energy food before you are chilled.” A pre-warmed sleeping bag will also help prevent further heat loss.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that extreme cold poses a higher threat to life than extreme heat, with cold-related fatalities outpacing heat-related fatalities almost every year.
According to the U.S. Forest Service, outdoor recreation accidents account for about 85% of fatalities.