A dog was rescued from underneath ice at Stewart Falls after it fell and was trapped 40 feet below the surface for more than 7 hours.
*** PRESS RELEASE *** February 4, 2019: On February 2, 2019, shortly before 2:00 PM, Deputies with the Utah County Sheriff's Office were dispatched to a report of a dog that fell in the river near Stewart Falls, above Sundance ski resort, in Provo Canyon. The Deputy learned that the dog was with its owner, Yichoo Su, and several other people when it wandered off. Sometime in the previous week or so and avalanche came through this area and deposited over 40 feet of snow at the base of Steward Falls. A witness saw the dog fall through a small opening next to a cliff and disappear under the snow and ice. Initially it was feard that the dog may have died in the fall, but when Search and Rescue (SAR) members responded they discovered that the dog was still alive.
When snow is deposited, either from an avalanche, as in this case, or simply from falling in a storm, it can create large, cavernous openings underneath the surface as the snow melts. In this case, the waterfalls accelerated this process and created a large cavern under the surface of the avalanche deposit from which the only opening was 40 feet above, through which the dog initially fell. A SAR team member used a shovel and dug a hole in the top of the snow a short distance below where the dog fell in. Through that hole they saw that the dog appeared to be alive and moving a little bit. The major safety concern was the stability of the snow deposit. As that snow melts from the bottom it creates a risk that the surface, or "roof" of the cavern will collapse. In this case the snow where the second hole was created was 4'-7' thick. SAR members were able to set up redundant anchoring systems. One team member was then able to safely rappel into the cavern. He found the dog curled up to one side. There was concern about how the dog would respond to a stranger, but in this case the dog seemed glad to see the rescuer. After securing the dog in a harness it was raised to the surface through the hole in the ceiling of the cavern. The SAR team member then ascended back to the surface.
A short time later there was a happy reunion with the dog, Beeroo, its owner, Su, and others in the group with Su. There were also a number of bystanders who assisted in providing information about this call. Many people offered to assist, but because of the highly technical nature of the rescue operation SAR officials were not able to accept assistance from them. While this rescue was carried out successfully, we want people engaging in outdoor activities to be aware of their surroundings and the risks that exist at different times of the year. People need to be aware of risks and published avalanche warning information whenever they plan on spending time in the back country.
For questions contact Sergeant Spencer Cannon, Public Information Officer, Utah County Sheriff's Office. (801)404-1912. Twitter: @SGTCannonPIO or @UCSO