Update: Flash flood kills Utah girl, 7, near Goblin Valley State Park; sister, age 3, still missing

A multi-agency search and rescue operation is underway near Goblin Valley State Park, with one fatality being reported, the Emery County Sheriff's Office said Monday, May 11, 2020. Photo: Emery County Sheriff's Office/Facebook
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EMERY COUNTY, Utah, May 12, 2020 (Gephardt Daily) — The Emery County sheriff has confirmed the one known fatality from a flash flood in the slot canyons near Goblin Valley State Park is a 7-year-old Utah girl.

An intense search continues Tuesday morning for the girl’s 3-year-old sister. A shirt believed to be the one the toddler was wearing was found about seven miles downstream from the family’s location, in Little Wildhorse Canyon.

“We’re still keeping up hope,” Emery County Sheriff Greg Funk told reporters at the scene. “We’ve got choppers, we’ve got dogs,” and searchers from multiple agencies, he said.

The flash flood struck on Monday afternoon, and the search has been on since.

“The National Weather Service confirms that the main portion of the storm crossed Goblin Valley State Park and that the storm was capable of nickel-sized hail,” a statement released Monday says.

Funk said first responders from multiple surrounding counties arrived to help without being asked.

The deceased girl was found by her father, Funk said. The man tried to revive her but was was unsuccessful.

“The family — that’s who we’re most concerned about now,” Funk said. “It was horrific. I can’t even fathom.”

A storm can dump water as many as 40 miles away, Funk said, and hikers can find themselves caught up, without warning, in deep water mixed with sand and debris. The sheriff compared it to suddenly finding yourself inside a washing machine.

There are narrow spots in the canyon where the walls can be up to 300 feet high, Funk said, when asked about how deep the water can get.

Officials said 21 hikers were reported safe. Funk said Tuesday that no cars in the parking area remain unclaimed, so crews are hopeful no unknown hikers are missing.

Agencies that responded include search and rescue teams from Emery County, Grand County, Sevier County and Wayne County, and personnel from the Bureau of Land Management, Utah State Park, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, and Utah Highway Patrol.

Also assisting in the search are two helicopters from Classic Air in Moab and a helicopter from the Department of Public Safety Aero Bureau. Six ambulances from Emery, Wayne and Sevier responded.

The red pin marks the location of Little Wildhorse Canyon. Image: Google Maps

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