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Zion National Park announced Tuesday that the body of a hiker who went missing in flash flooding last week has been found. Jetal Agnihotri, 29, of Tucson, Arizona, was found in the Virgin River near the patriarchal court, the park said.
“We extend our deepest condolences to the friends and family of Jetal Agnihotri,” park superintendent Jeff Bradybaugh said in a statement.
Agnihotri was missing Friday after flash floods swept away several hikers, forcing park rangers and officials to launch a rescue operation. Zion National Park said in a statement that the park received a report about 2:15 p.m. local time Friday that several hikers had been swept away in Narrows near the Sinawava Temple.
During an initial search, rangers found an injured hiker who was taken to hospital, the park said. Rangers also spotted several other tourists who had managed to avoid flooding by looking for high ground. They will be escorted to safety once the water levels drop, the park said.
“Throughout the afternoon and evening of August 19, Zion National Park rangers interviewed groups of visitors leaving Narrows and Riverside Walk to ensure that no member of their group was missing,” the park said. “At the time, there were no reports of missing hikers.”
Agnihotri was not reported missing until late Friday night, the park said.
“In response, park rangers continued to monitor the river at night and additional search crews were mobilized early on Aug. 20,” the park said. “Members of the Zion Search and Rescue Team, as well as staff from many partner organizations, Working in and around the Virgin River, looking for Ms. Agni Hawtree”
The park said she was found about “six miles south of the Channel.”
Zion National Park is one of the most visited recreation areas
Zion National Park is one of the most visited recreation areas in the United States, although it often becomes dangerous and is under a flood warning from the National Weather Service. Flooding can pose a danger to seasoned hikers and climbers, as well as many newcomers flocking to the park, as the pandemic fuels a craze for outdoor recreation. Despite warnings, flash floods often trap people in the park’s canyons, some as narrow as windows and hundreds of feet deep.
“Once you’re there, if (flash floods) happen, you’re a kind of SOL,” said Scott Cundy, whose Arizona-based hiking company takes visitors through the park.
Cundy vividly remembers taking a group of people on a tour one year and turning around to see a wall of water rushing towards them. They hurried to Grand Canyon Heights, a two-hour drive from Zion. Until just now, he hadn’t seen a single cloud in the sky. “It happened very quickly,” he said. Given the terrain, Cundy said he would cancel the trip if there was a hint of rain in Zion’s narrow canyons.