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Missing mountain biker rescued after 2 day search

A Utah Highway Patrol helicopter searched the desert terrain and found the missing man.

Emery County Progress editor

After two days of intense searching, a Utah mountain biker was found in good condition along the high altitude cliffs of Keg Canyon in Emery County Tuesday afternoon.

Sam Spirio-Johnson, 18, of Salt Lake City, was reported missing by his riding partner on Monday at 3:43 p.m. after the group went riding in the Keg Point area. Keg Point is in the southeast corner of Emery County just north of the nationally-known Horseshoe Canyon Native American rock art panel. The search began after the man fell behind his riding party and reportedly took a wrong turn while attempting to catch up. Companions stated that Johnston had wrecked on his bike a couple of days before the trip so they didn't panic when he dropped behind. They "thought he was just being extra cautious and lagging behind," they said.

After being found, Johnson explained that he had become thirsty and went down to the Green River to get a drink. When he got back to the slick rock area where the group was biking, he went the wrong direction and became lost. As night fell, Johnson found a place to sleep. When he tried to walk out on the morning of May 14 he kept "getting ledged in." Johnson was located three miles (as the crow flies) from where he abandoned his bike.

Johnson's abandoned bike was found early on March 14 as a helicopter piloted by Sgt. Kent Harrison spotted a mountain bike by a ravine on the south rim of the canyon where Johnson was later found. The helicopter landed and the bike, with a flat tire, was identified as that of the missing man. The helicopter resumed flight and guided ground searchers to the bike's location, where the land search continued.

Johnson was subsequently located by the same chopper which had flown down the drainage of Keg Canyon. As the helicopter exited the mouth of the canyon, searchers spotted three canoes full of waving individuals. The helicopter circled and noticed the people pointing their paddles at the tops of the adjacent cliffs. The pilot gained altitude and spotted Johnson waiving his arms frantically on the rim of the canyon.

After being located, Johnson was transported by helicopter to the landing zone, given food and water and examined by Search and Rescue Capt. Brad Reed.

Those participating in the rescue effort were Emery County Sheriff's Officials Gayle Jensen, Mitch Vetere, Kyle Ekker, Tom Harrison, Michael Jorgensen and Sheriff Greg Funk. The search as also aided by Wade Allinson and Jim Jennings searching on dirt bikes and Ken Eley, Greg Jewkes and Ben Orgill searching on ATVs. Huntington Pilot Jody Cox, Jason Jewkes and Department of Public Saftety helicopter pilot Kent Harrison were also part of the two day search.

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