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Search for missing Zion hiker swept away by flash flood enters 4th day

Western Storms
Posted at 12:17 PM, Aug 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-23 15:17:47-04

ZION NATIONAL PARK, Utah  — Officials at Zion National Park said the search for a missing hiker continued four days after she disappeared

On Monday, the National Park Service said they are still searching for 29-year-old Jetal Agnihotri. The Washington County Sheriff's Office has joined in the search in the area near the Virgin River toward the southern end of the park.

"You know, two and a half days of searching inside the park, not having any luck in locating this young lady, we've now moved the search outside of the park through Springdale, Rockville and further south toward Virgin Utah," said Sgt. Darrell Cashin with the Washington County Sheriff's Office.

Sgt. Cashin said they have 26 people inside and outside the park searching for Agnihotri.

He says the search has come with some challenges.

"I think partly just the water carries so much debris in it and so much silt in it that when you like put your hand in it, you can't see your hand anymore, It's just that cloudy, it looks to describe, it looks like chocolate milk," said Sgt. Cashin.

A situation compounded, Sgt. Cashin says with the rain, the area saw both Friday and Saturday.

"Every time that water comes through with another flood, it almost makes you have to restart because it can turn up things you didn't see before, very things that were there," said Sgt. Cashin.

Agnihotri went missing Friday as flash floods hit the Narrows section of the park. At the time, the National Park Service had received reports of hikers being swept up by the flooding.

It wasn't until later in the evening that park employees learned the 29-year-old Arizona woman was overdue from a trip to the Narrows.

A woman who was with Agnihotri before she disappeared told FOX 13 News that she and another friend had left the area after hearing about flash flooding. Instead of joining the other two, Mostafa Javadian said Agnihotri wanted to stay and explore the Narrows.

The Zion Search and Rescue Team utilized more than 20 of its members in an unsuccessful attempt to locate Agnihotri near the Virgin River.

"We want to be able to cover as much ground as we can, and so that's why we're working with our partners both inside and outside of the park so that we can continue our search," said Jonathan Shafer, Public Affairs Specialist with Zion National Park.

Park officials said the Riverside Walk and the Narrows remain closed, but the search is not affecting operations at Angels Landing or other Zion destinations.

Sgt. Cashin said they would continue to search and rescue efforts during the daylight hours in hopes of finding Agnihotri.

"The search is going to continue as long as we feel there's a relative chance of locating her," said Sgt. Cashin.

Sgt. Cashin said they plan to continue searching throughout this week. After that, they may look at calling out for additional resources, including K-9s and even the Utah Department of Public Safety helicopter, to ensure they aren't missing anything in their search.

On Monday morning, KSTU spoke briefly with her brother, Pujan Agnihotri.

He said all of her immediate family, including himself, his wife, and her parents, are staying in Hurricane right now. They went to the park Sunday and Monday while the search and rescue efforts were going on.

Pujan said it has been frustrating and devastating for the family that Jetal has not been found yet.

Chris Arnold and Jeff Tavss at KSTU first reported this story.