It took hours to get an Arizona man free from quicksand, then he had to brave conditions in a winter storm

Posted at 8:10 PM, Feb 18, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-19 07:52:14-05

In the span of two days, an Arizona man got stuck in quicksand for hours and then had to spend the night coping with a winter storm before being rescued.

The ordeal began Saturday as the 34-year-old man and a woman he was with — also from Arizona — were hiking at Zion National Park in Utah. The man’s leg got stuck in quicksand in a location that was about a three-hour hike from the start of the trail they were taking, called the Subway route.

“His leg was buried up to his knee and he was unable to free himself,” a release from the National Park Service said.

The two tried to free the man’s leg but were unable to so the woman left him “with warm gear and clothing.” She hiked for three hours until she got cell phone service to call 911.

A Zion search-and-rescue team began hiking to find the man and woman, the release states. National park rangers found the woman, who was showing signs of hypothermia, at the beginning of the trail and treated her.

Several hours passed before the rangers could find the man, who was described as “stable but suffering from exposure, hypothermia, and extremity injuries,” according to the park service. The Utah Department of Public Safety (DPS) said the man had been exposed in water for 10 hours. It then took several more hours into the night before the man’s leg was freed. Rangers then rewarmed and treated his leg.

But the mission wasn’t over.

Winter storms in the area brought “four additional inches of snow,” according to the park service, so the rangers and the man spent the night at the site.

A Utah DPS helicopter was dispatched from Salt Lake City the next morning, the release from the agency states. The winter storms made it hard for rescuers to see all morning, the release said, but a small break in the weather that afternoon helped rescuers find the man and rangers — as seen in a video the DPS posted on YouTube.

The man was then taken to a local hospital. Both he and the woman he was with are expected to be OK, according to CNN affiliate KUTV.

What exactly is quicksand?

Quicksand develops when saturated sand acquires the characteristics of liquid, according to Britannica Academic. It’s usually found at the mouths of large rivers, flat stretches of streams or even beaches where water pools up and fills with sand.

Britannica states that while a person or animal can get stuck in quicksand, they “cannot sink below the surface” because of body buoyancy. Struggling, however, can lead to losing balance and possible drowning.