Utah rescuers ‘accidentally’ find family that was stranded for 2 days

Utah Department of Public Safety(SALT LAKE CITY) -- Utah rescuers located a family of four that had been stranded along a river for two days after "accidentally" finding them while searching for a missing kayaker, authorities said.

A helicopter crew from the Utah Department of Public Safety and a Garfield County sheriff's deputy came across the family, who appeared to be in "obvious distress," on Sunday while on a search-and-rescue call for the kayaker along the Escalante River, a DPS said in a press release.

Utah DPS Chief Pilot Luke Bowman told ABC Salt Lake City affiliate KTVX that he and the helicopter's flight commander spotted the father first.

"We saw a guy step out on a sandbar and started waving at us -- signaling and waving his hat in the air," Bowman said.

When the helicopter crew landed, they learned that the family -- which included a mother, father, their two teenage daughters and the family dog -- had been stranded for two days after they crashed into boulders during high water following a big storm and lost their boats and paddles, according to the DPS. The family had spent two nights in a steep canyon, KTVX reported.

"The mom especially was very excited that we were there," Bowman said. "She kind of made a comment like 'I don't care what happens. Just get me out of the canyon'. They were pretty excited. They were ready to get out."

The father, Jay Vonesh, told ABC Denver affiliate KMGH-TV that the Escalante River became dangerous when rough weather moved into the area.

"Our boats got stuck on boulders, we got swept under the boulders, it was terrifying," he said.

Jay Vonesh's wife, Julie Vonesh, said the family had enough food to get them through a day or two. "We just kind of didn't know what we were going to do," she said.

Jay Vonesh, a pastor in Bailey, Colorado, said his faith helped them through the ordeal.

"We sat on a sandbar and basically said 'God, can you give us a hand here? We're out of options,'" he said, adding that within "two minutes" the DPS helicopter came.

"As soon as I saw the helicopter I started, like, crying," one of the couple's daughters, Janae Vonesh, said. "I was just so happy, and I was just thinking about all of my friends at home."

The Colorado family was then airlifted to the Escalante Municipal Airport, DPS said. The kayaker whom rescuers were originally looking for returned safely on his own later, according to DPS.

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