Indian-American hiker from Arizona dies after disappearing during floods at Utah’s Zion National Park

Zion National Park announcement on Jetal Agnihotri Photo website of Zion National Park

A 29-year-old hiker has died after she was reported missing Friday evening at Utah’s Zion National Park, the park said Tuesday.

Jetal Agnihotri, a graduate student at the University of Arizona, was discovered Monday August 22, 2022, in the Virgin River near a grouping of sandstone cliffs known as the Court of the Patriarchs, according to park officials, ending a multiday search that involved 170 responders.

“Our deepest sympathy goes out to the friends and family of Jetal Agnihotri,” Jeff Bradybaugh, superintendent of Zion National Park, said in a news release.

The park could not be immediately reached for comment Tuesday night. According to the news release, a medical examiner confirmed Agnihotri’s death.

On Friday evening, park officials received a report that Agnihotri was overdue from a trip to the Narrows, an area about six miles north of where she was later found. The Narrows is the narrowest section of the Zion Canyon, with walls about 1,000 feet tall, and is popular among visitors, according to the park.

Earlier that day, officials received a separate report about hikers “being swept off their feet by a flash flood in the Narrows,” the park said. Park officials rescued one injured hiker swept downstream by rising water and others stranded by flash floods.

Rangers also interviewed visitors exiting the Narrows, and at the time, no one reported anyone missing. Agnihotri had been hiking with school friends before her disappearance, her university newspaper reported.

After receiving the report about Agnihotri, park officials and state and local emergency responders continued to monitor the Virgin River. The park had closed certain trails because of a rainstorm the previous day.

Deadly flash floods can happen with little warning at Zion National Park, which draws millions of visitors each year.

During search operations, seasonal monsoon rains had increased the flow of the Virgin River to a peak of 1,100 cubic feet per second, the park said. One cubic foot of water contains about 7.5 gallons and weighs about 60 pounds. The Virgin River flows at an average of about 100 cubic feet per second. When Agnihotri was found this week, the river had slowed to about 50 cubic feet per second.

Zion National Park is known to have heavier summer downpours because of its annual monsoon season, between July and September. The park describes flash floods as unpredictable, deadly and impossible to outrun. They can occur with sunny skies overhead, the park says on its website.

Zion officials advise visitors to plan for flash flood contingencies, avoid areas that are likely to flood and leave an itinerary with someone before heading out. Signs of an impending flash flood include a change in water color and increased debris in the water, the park says on its website. As little as 6 inches of water can knock people down, it adds.



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