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Two men were found dead and another was rescued after bad weather triggered a flash flood in Buckskin Gulch, a narrow gorge.

Two hikers were found dead and one was rescued by helicopter earlier this week after storms and heavy rainfall triggered floods that surged through a narrow canyon in southern Utah, the authorities said on Thursday.
The hikers — Edward Smith, 50; Jeffrey Watson, 50; and William Romaniello III, 53 — had set off on March 10 from Wire Pass, a trailhead that leads into Buckskin Gulch, one of the nation’s longest and most rugged slot canyons, or narrow gorges, which runs through the south of the state.
“It’s very popular and it’s quite a big deal if you have got the stamina to do it,” said Lt. Alan Alldredge, an emergency services official and spokesman for the Kane County Sheriff’s Office. “Four hundred-foot cliff walls, two feet apart.”
The men, who worked together at Orthopaedic Medical Group of Tampa Bay in Florida, were experienced hikers on their way to Lees Ferry on the Colorado River, a distance of about 50 miles that they had hoped to reach by Sunday night, Lieutenant Alldredge said in an interview.
They never arrived at their destination.
On Monday morning, the wife of one of the hikers called the authorities to report that the group had not been in contact. While the men were well-prepared, the prospect of their disappearance was alarming, considering the weather and the challenge of searching miles of narrow canyons by helicopter.
Southern Utah had been deluged by stormy weather. The Bureau of Land Management and the Kane County Sheriff’s Office this week issued an advisory to discourage visitors from continuing their hikes, saying that “severe and unpredictable” flash flooding could occur in Buckskin Gulch, another canyon, called Paria, and Wire Pass, a starting point for hikers setting off into the canyons.
The effects of stormy weather are daunting on the pathways that thread through the steep canyon walls, particularly in Buckskin Gulch, a narrow gorge that winds for about 16 miles through steep, sandstone walls, making it one of the longest slot canyons in the world.
While the area is attractive to hikers, the slot canyon’s slender passages can be perilous during heavy rainfall, forming a chute through which powerful floods can surge.
Rescuers evacuated at least 11 hikers from other groups from the area in the past week, Lieutenant Alldredge said.
He said Buckskin Gulch is typically dry, but hikers come across a patch of water or a knee-deep pool occasionally. The days before the three hikers set off had been rainy, adding to a season of wet winter weather that had already spewed runoff into the canyon.
“It was slow going for them,” he said.
The hikers did not get very far that first night, and set up camp, he said. On Saturday morning, he said, they could hear the quickening sound of water.
“Then they got hit with the flash flood,” he said, describing such floods as “horrible, violent events,” with water pushing forward between towering canyon walls.
“You got a five-foot coming at you, and the walls are three feet wide,” he said. “Then you got a wall of water. There is nowhere to go. You go where the water takes you.”
The rushing water had carried the hikers miles downstream, until at some point Dr. Watson, an orthopedic surgeon who specialized in sports medicine, and Mr. Smith clambered onto a bank, the official said. The men regrouped before pressing on to search for Mr. Romaniello. Dr. Watson had hurt his leg and said he could not go on, Lieutenant Alldredge said.
Mr. Smith got Dr. Watson situated and left to look for help, the lieutenant said, recounting what Mr. Smith told the authorities after he was rescued. They were about 10 miles into the canyon, the lieutenant said, and “conditions were so bad. They were cold and beat up.”
On Monday, when the search and rescue helicopter was launched, the rescuers started to spot signs that they were zeroing in on the hikers, including camping debris and a backpack. Using infrared equipment, rescuers detected a “glimpse of a body” a few miles from where the two had split up, the lieutenant said.
It was Mr. Smith. He was alive, but “just spent,” Lieutenant Alldredge said.
“He was done. Out of energy. He was kind of leaning up against the side of a rock cliff,” he said. “Then he kind of laid down, but he could wave his hand.”
From the helicopter, the search team lowered a rescuer into the canyon, who was able to harness and hoist Mr. Smith out. He was taken to the hospital, the spokesman said.
Search teams also went in on foot, entering at a spot about halfway into Buckskin Gulch where there is access into the depths between its walls.
One of them was Melanie Rader, a swift water rescue specialist. Wearing dry suits, they pressed at night through waist-deep, roiling water and quicksand, navigating logjams and calling the names of the missing men.
It was so dark and remote on the floor of the 200-foot-deep canyon that they had to beam their flashlights onto its upper walls so the teams on the rim could keep track as they moved along, unseen.
“The canyon had been flowing for over a month as a result of snowmelt,” she said. “It is really scary.”
Late on Monday, they found Mr. Romaniello’s body.
On Tuesday morning, rescuers found scattered gear. On Wednesday there was another rainstorm, Lieutenant Alldredge said. The helicopter was unable to fly, but was kept ready for a safe break in conditions that would have enabled rescuers to lift off.
When that break came, the rescuers went up, pursuing a tip they had received on Tuesday from a man who said he had seen a body.
It was the body of Dr. Watson, on a patch of land in the middle of the Paria River, about three miles inside of Arizona, Lieutenant Alldredge said.
“It will forever be a mystery to us how he got that far downstream,” he said. “We will never know.”
Christine Hauser is a reporter, covering national and foreign news. Her previous jobs in the newsroom include stints in Business covering financial markets and on the Metro desk in the police bureau. More about Christine Hauser