Emery County Sheriff, Greg Funk, confirmed Tuesday afternoon that a missing person report was filed Monday around 3:43 pm. The missing person was 18-year-old Sam Spirio-Johnston of Salt Lake City. Members of his mountain biking group last saw him around 1 p.m. earlier that day.
According to a press release by the Emery County Sheriff’s Department, the biking group lost site of Johnston while riding in a slick rock area of Keg Point, located in the southeast corner of Emery County. This area is located just north of Horseshoe Canyon’s petroglyph panel. Funk explained that deputies and National Park Service officials began searching immediately following the missing person report.
Sheriff Funk boarded a private airplane with pilot Jody Cox who flew over Johnston’s last known location until dark. Searchers were unable to locate the teen Monday, but continued searching on Tuesday. Joining search efforts were members of the Bureau of Land Management, additional Emery County Sheriff personnel, members of the mountain bike party and Department of Public Safety helicopter pilot Kent Harrison.
After discovering an abandoned mountain bike from the air, officials were able to land the helicopter and confirm that the bike was that of the missing youth. The bike had a flat tire and appeared to have been left by Johnston who was now afoot.
Officials began to focus the search near the abandoned bike area. The air search also continued flying over the Keg Canyon drainage. Once the air crew exited the mouth of the canyon, the team spotted three canoes with occupants waving at the helicopter. According to the sheriff’s department report, members of the canoes began pointing to steep cliffs where Johnston was located standing on the rim.
Rescuers were able to reach Johnston who appeared to be in good condition. He was then transported by helicopter to the landing zone where he received food and water.
Johnston explained to officials that he had fallen behind his group and became thirsty. He then went to the Green River for a drink and upon his return, went the wrong direction. The sheriff’s report explained that the teen then found a place to sleep. Johnston again began walking Tuesday morning, but found himself on slick rock edges.
Rescuers found the missing biker about three miles from the abandoned bike.