A hiker was rescued at Zion National Park in southwest Utah over the weekend, hours after his leg got stuck in quicksand during a snowstorm.
Ryan Osmun and his girlfriend, Jessika McNeill, had hiked for about three hours through the park, up the Left Fork of North Creek trail, also known as the Subway, on Saturday when McNeill tripped, and her hands and knees fell into quicksand.
“I was trying to calm her so she wouldn’t sink more,” Osmun, 34, told ABC News in an interview that airing on “Good Morning America” on Tuesday. “As that was happening, I didn’t realize my right leg was sinking into the sand.”
The quicksand swallowed Osmun’s entire leg by the time he’d helped free his girlfriend from the dangerous mixture of sand and near-freezing water. McNeill tried to dig him out but the water kept refilling the hole.
“He eventually told me I needed to leave him and hike back to get cell service and call 911,” McNeill told ABC News, adding she thought she would never see her boyfriend again.
“I knew the only way to save his life was to leave him, but I didn’t know if he had the time left,” she said. “It was the hardest thing I’ve had to do, the scariest thing I had to do.”
McNeill hiked three hours back to find cellphone service and call for help. Rangers with the Zion Search and Rescue found her close to the trail head and treated her for hypothermia, according to the National Park Service. By that time, the sun was starting to set.
“When she left, I was really scared, mostly for her,” Osmun said. “I just hoped the best for her, honestly, because I didn’t feel like I was going to make it out.”
After several hours of searching, rangers located Osmun, who was suffering from exposure, hypothermia and extremity injuries. It took rescuers two hours to free him from the quicksand.
“The water was so cold, I thought I was going to lose my leg,” Osmun said. “I was in the water for 11 hours total. There were two snowstorms while I was waiting, just sitting in the water. It was just pouring snow.”
Rangers spent the night in freezing conditions tending to Osmun, according to the National Park service. Zion National Park reported 4 additional inches of snow overnight.
The Utah Department of Public Safety dispatched a helicopter to the search and rescue team the following morning. It took the helicopter until Sunday afternoon to safely land due to extreme weather conditions.
The National Park Service advises hikers to use extreme caution during this winter season.
Osmun and McNeill, both from Arizona, said they’d never hiked the park’s Subway route before.
“There was nothing I could change,” Osmun said. “We were as prepared as we could be.”