Officials are continuing their search efforts for the 3-year-old girl after finding a piece of clothing believed to have been hers

By Joelle Goldstein
May 12, 2020 01:08 PM
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Little Wildhorse Canyon
| Credit: Emery County Sheriff's Office

A 7-year-old girl was killed and her 3-year-old sister remains missing after a flash flood swept through a Utah canyon on Monday, authorities confirmed.

The Emery County Sheriff’s Office said in a press release that at least 21 others survived the terrifying incident, which occurred at popular hiking spot Little Wildhorse Canyon.

According to officials, "an isolated thunderstorm crossed the San Rafael Swell" on Monday afternoon, causing flash flooding and "nickel-sized hail" in area slot canyons.

As a result, Search and Rescue teams from Emery County, Grand County, Sevier County, and Wayne County, along with officials from the Bureau of Land Management, Utah State Park, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources and Utah Highway Patrol, immediately showed up to the scene to help the hikers escape the heavy waters.

Three helicopters and six ambulances were also dispatched to assist with search and rescue efforts, which continued into late Monday evening.

Unfortunately, it was too late for one victim, whose identity was confirmed by the Emery County Sheriff's Office on Tuesday to be that of a 7-year-old Utah girl.

Officials also revealed that only one other person was still believed to be missing from the floods: the victim's younger sister.

A search team comprised of 67 people were continuing their efforts into Tuesday, according to the sheriff's office, which also noted that authorities had found a piece of clothing in the waters, presumably belonging to the 3-year-old.

"Crews searched until late last night and resumed this morning," the Emery County Sheriff's Office wrote. "A piece of clothing believed to belong to the missing 3-year-old was found last night approximately 7 miles down a wash from the staging area."

"It is believed that everyone else is accounted for," the sheriff's office continued. "ECSO expresses our deepest sympathy to the family that has suffered this tragic loss. We also express gratitude to all who are assisting in this search. We will update as information becomes available."

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Little Wildhorse Canyon is a popular family hiking spot located in south-central Utah near Goblin Valley, according to Utah.com.

The hike itself is an eight-mile loop, described by the site as "moderately strenuous," with its main attraction being a "long stretch of 'narrows' where the canyon walls are so close you have to turn sideways to get through."

Though it's a common spot for families, hikers are warned that flash floods pose a significantly dangerous threat in the narrow canyons.

"These canyons are normally dry, although they may harbor pools of water during the spring and immediately after summer storms. If there are pools, hikers just wade through them - the water is usually only ankle-deep," Utah.com reads. "Never enter a slot canyon if there is a significant chance of rain anywhere in the canyon's drainage area."