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Canyoneer dies at Zion National Park over Thanksgiving weekend

A Virginia canyoneer died last weekend at Zion National Park in Utah, officials said Monday.

Andrew Arvig, 31, of Chesapeake, Virginia, died Sunday during an canyoneering expedition at Heaps Canyon. Two other canyoneers in the same expedition were rescued by the park’s response team.

In a statement, officials said the park’s rescue team responded to an “emergency call at the exit of Heaps Canyon” on Saturday.

“Rescuers found two canyoneers stranded on a rock perch about 280 feet above Upper Emerald Pools. They also found one canyoneer (Arivig) suspended from a rope about 260 feet above the pool (20 feet below the perch),” the statement said.

Arvig was lowered to the ground and later pronounced dead.

The group started their trip early Saturday and had been following their permitted itinerary through Heaps Canyon. “They had difficulty negotiating the last few rappels in the canyon which delayed their exit,” officials said.

Arvig, the first to exit Heaps Canyon, rappelled past a small rock ledge where he needed to land and re-anchor his rope in order to then rappel the remaining distance to the ground. The other members of the group used their “pull line” to rappel to the perch. Arvig was unable to ascend the 20 feet back to the perch, the statement said.

Rangers began rescue operations early Sunday when the canyoneers on the perch contacted Washington County Dispatch by cell phone after several failed attempts to connect because of poor reception. Arvig’s death is under investigation.

The park’s response involved more than 30 rescuers, including a technical rescue team, a helicopter from Grand Canyon National Park and a helicopter and crew from St. George.

Park deaths (partial list, since 2010)

August 2021: A Wisconsin man died during a hike.

February 2021: A Utah man died in a fall from Angels Landing.

2019: A Maine woman died in a high-elevation fall in November.

2018: The body of a 13-year-old girl was found in Zion’s Refrigerator Canyon in February.

2016: A climber fell to his death while climbing a popular route in March.

2015: A 50-year-old Utah man died in a canyoneering accident in October. A month earlier, six people died during a flash flood inside a narrow canyon. In July, Brian Artmann, 24, of Henderson, fell to his death while climbing Heaps Canyon.

2014: A BASE jumper died in the park in March. A month earlier, a Utah woman died when her parachute failed to open after she leapt from a peak overlooking the park.

2010: In July, Corey Buxton, a 17-year-old senior at Centennial High School, was found in a ravine. Months earlier, two “Las Vegas area hikers” died during an expedition inside the park.

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