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A Colorado pastor and his family spent two days on a southern Utah river, waiting to be rescued after a kayaking trip went horribly wrong.

It had started out as a fun vacation for a family from Bailey, Colorado as they traveled to Utah for a kayaking trip, something they did often. However, it quickly turned into a feat of survival. The family’s kayaks crashed into boulders, forcing them to wait for help in a canyon for two over days. Their kayak was overturned when they hit a tough spot on the Escalante River.

two days

Escalante River Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

The family, along with their dog, became stranded on Friday, March 31. They had been planning a multi-day trip in Utah when they crashed. Pulling together what resources they could – minimal food and gear from their kayaks – the family tried to remain hopeful, but their odds of being rescued seemed slim.

Luckily, the odds were in the family’s favor. On Sunday, April 2, as the river’s flow remained high and unyielding, a police helicopter flew overhead above the family. The helicopter was not originally intended for them, instead for another man who had been separated from his hiking group.

Garfield County Deputy Sheriff Ray Gardner, one of the officers in the helicopter, said that the family was unharmed and required zero medical attention, which was surprising considering the circumstances he found them in.

The helicopter was able to land on a sandbar before flying the mother and two daughters out of the canyon to an airport near the town of Escalante. They returned the helicopter to retrieve the father, who was waiting with rescuers. He was then taken to their family car just outside the canyon, before he drove to the airport to meet his family.

Authorities recently released the names of the family from Bailey, Colorado. It’s been confirmed that the Vonesh family – Jay and Julie Vonesh, along with their teenage daughters, Jessie and Janae – have been identified.

The Escalante River, where the family was stranded, runs through a harsh terrain across the 3,000 square mile Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Waters typically run high this time of the year due to the snowmelt running off into the river, however the levels were even higher over the weekend of the kayaking trip.

We are thrilled that the Vonesh family was found safe and unharmed! If you ever go out kayaking or partake in any other rigorous outdoor activities, please be vigilant and cautious. Keep each other safe, Colorado!

Featured photo courtesy of 100 Hands Photography.

Another incredible tale of survival! Read how an 85-year-old woman survived five days stranded in her car!

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