Zion National Park Officials Discover Missing Hiker’s Body After Flash Floods

by Sean Griffin

Officials at Zion National Park just announced they found a missing hiker on Monday in the park near the Court of the Patriarchs.

The officials reported finding Jetal Agnihotri of Tucson, Arizona near the Virgin River. She was later pronounced deceased by a medical examiner. The search and rescue operation for Agnihotri started on Friday, August 19.

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

Zion National Park reported that more than 170 responders contributed to operations over the course of the four-day search and rescue operation.

During the search, park rangers closely monitored the weather. Several seasonal-monsoon rains increased flow in the Virgin River. It rose to a peak of more than 1100 cubic feet per second. The river flowed at about 50 cubic feet per second when the Zion Search and Rescue Team ended their search.

Zion National Park received a report around 2:15 p.m. on Friday, August 19 of multiple hikers being swept off their feet by a flash flood. This reportedly occurred in the Narrows near the Temple of Sinawava.

The National Park Service immediately sent rangers to assess the situation. Then, they rapidly mobilized for a wide-scale search effort. Near the Temple of Sinawava, park rangers found an injured hiker who had been swept downstream several hundred yards. A ranger escorted that injured hiker to the hospital.

Other rangers hiked up Riverside Walk and found several hikers isolated by high water on high ground. Rangers directed them to remain in place until the water receded. Then, they made it out safely.

Zion National Park Sends Condolences to Family of Victim

Zion National Park maintenance staff monitored conditions along the Virgin River. Park rangers and members of the Zion Search and Rescue Team deployed along the Virgin River with flotation devices and ropes. This was to prepare to reach visitors who might be struggling in the water.

Throughout the afternoon and evening of August 19, Zion National Park rangers interviewed groups of visitors exiting the Narrows and Riverside Walk. They stopped to ensure that no party was missing a member. At that time, no hikers were reported missing.

Later in the evening, the National Park Service received a report of one hiker who was overdue from a trip. It ended up being Agnihotri.

In response, park rangers continued monitoring the river during the night. They mobilized additional searchers early on August 20. Zion Search and Rescue Team members as well as staff from many partner organizations worked in and around the Virgin River in their search efforts.

Search and rescue teams eventually found the missing person, Jetal Agnihotri, in the river near the Court of the Patriarchs. The Court of the Patriarchs is about 6 river miles south of the Narrows. Zion National Park and the National Park Service offer their condolences to the victim’s family in this tragedy.