Hikers from Kettering, West Chester found dead after suspected flash flooding in Utah

KANE COUNTY, UTAH — Two Ohio men, including one from Kettering, were found dead after hiking in southern Utah over the weekend.

John Walter, 72, of Kettering and Gary York, 65, of West Chester, were identified as the two hikers found dead in Buckskin Gulch in Kane County, Utah after a multi-day search, a sheriff’s office spokesperson said in a media release posted to social media Tuesday.

Buckskin Gulch is located on the Utah, Arizona state line and is about 60 miles north of Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona.

The search and investigation started Sunday morning when search and rescue teams were notified another hiking group found a body. The body was first unidentified but launched an joint investigation between officials in Arizona and Utah, the spokesperson said.

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Kane County deputies were notified Monday by West Chester Twp. police about two men, later identified as Walter and York, who family reported as missing. The families of Walter and York told police they last had contact with both of them Saturday afternoon.

Pictures provided by the family later identified the first body recovered was that of York, deputies said.

Search efforts continued Monday for Walter where he was later located in the afternoon. Deputies believe sudden flash flooding was responsible for sweeping away both men.

“Further investigation shows flash flooding in the Buckskin during the time when the two men would have been hiking and it is believed they were caught by surprise and swept away by the rushing wall of water,” the sheriff’s office spokesperson said in the media release.

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“This is the same canyon where two other men from Florida were killed by flooding in March of this year.”

York was carried about 10 miles downstream by the flood waters while Walter was found about eight miles away, the spokesperson said.

“We have witnessed the relentless power and danger of flash flooding in Kane County’s slot canyons. Our condolences go out to the York and Walter families,” the spokesperson said.

A power and danger experienced hikers like Any Niekamp are weary of.

Niekamp has decades of long-distance hiking experience and runs Dayton Hikers. He is currently hiking the Arizona trail.

“The last week the weather has been very unpredictable. It’s almost like monsoon weather here in northern Arizona and southern Utah,” he said.

He said the Buckskin Gulch is one of the longest, continuous slot canyons in the world.

“It’s almost a straight rock wall, straight up. There’s no climbing out. There’s no way to get to higher ground generally, in many of those areas in the gulches. It’s a real tragedy,” he said.

Niekamp said if you plan to hike it is always a good idea to do research on the trails where you’re headed and know the forecast.

This is a developing story and we’ll continue to update this page as we learn more.

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