Cache County search and rescue teams spent Sunday evening searching for 19-year-old Max Susman in Logan Canyon after Susman called the Cache County Sheriff’s Office to report he was stranded.
According to a statement from the sheriff’s office, Susman, a Utah State University student, parked his car near Second Dam around noon and proceeded to hike without “proper clothing, food or gear to stay the night.”
After hiking to a steep cliff area and realizing he could not get down, Susman called the Cache County Sheriff’s Office, whose search and rescue team delivered survival materials and spent the night with him before a life flight helicopter was able to pick them up.
Susman, who did not respond to request for comment, was evaluated by medical personnel and released shortly after.
Although Susman made it out of the canyon OK, this is not the case for many Utah recreationists, said Joe Dougherty, spokesman for the Utah Division of Emergency Management.
“Unfortunately, sometimes these search and rescue missions are going up there and they’re recovering bodies, and that’s the reality of someone who has gone up there and potentially not prepared,” Dougherty said. “Someone else has to go find that body and bring the body back down. That’s just another reality of search and rescue.”
Dougherty added that emergency preparedness can, quite literally, save someone’s life in a potentially threatening situation.
Though a recreationist cannot always predict weather, Dougherty recommends checking the Utah Avalanche Center’s website often and checking the weather.
“Know before you’re going out there what conditions are going to be like,” he said.
Dougherty also recommended dressing in warm clothes and, above all else, telling someone where you will be in case of an emergency.
“That call for help might not come from the mountain,” he said. “Sometimes people are lucky and they’re in a place where they actually still have reception, but sometimes they’re not. And that’s why having someone who’s expecting you is very wise.”
Tara Behunin, a search and rescue administrative support worker, said someone knowing where a search and rescue victim is can be the difference between life and death.
“We’ve had cases where someone can’t call and get help immediately, and hours later we’re trying to figure out where in the world they are,” she said. “It can delay response, and ultimately it can really affect life safety.”
Although search and rescue teams are organized through the county sheriff’s office, most team members are volunteers who are reimbursed for fuel and equipment used during rescue procedures.
These search and rescue missions are pricey, Behunin said.
According to data provided by the Division of Emergency Management, $293,228 were spent in 2016 on missions across 24 counties. Specifically, Cache County spent about $39,000 on reimbursements to search and rescue members in the same year.
In an effort to stay safe while still enjoying recreational activity, Behunin and Dougherty recommend going out in pairs or groups, keeping basic survival materials on hand at all times, and alerting others of where you will be.
“Just think before you go out,” Behunin said.