Two LDS leaders drown in rough, frigid waters

Two adult leaders drowned July 14 while leading a youth group from the Riviera Ward, Salt Lake Granite Park Stake, on a backcountry hike in Zion National Park in southwestern Utah.

Kim Ellis, 37, drowned in a whirlpool at the bottom of a Kolob Creek waterfall after rescuing Young Men Pres. David Fleischer, 27, who had been trapped in the water.Brother Ellis was pulled from the water and Mark Brewer, 35, the second counselor in the Riviera Ward bishopric, attempted to revive him by administering CPR for 30 minutes.

Finally the group moved on, trying to reach a grotto Brother Fleischer knew of from previous times he had hiked the canyon. But a short time later, he was swept over another waterfall, disappeared in a whirlpool and drowned.

Brother Brewer then decided there was no way the group could proceed safely along the raging creek. He and the boys spent the next four nights on a small ledge above the creek. A search for the survivors, who were due back Saturday, July 17, didn't begin until Monday.

The youth who were rescued were Brother Ellis' son Shane, 14; Chris Stevens, 15; Rich Larson, 16; Josh Nay, 16; and Mike Perkins, 17.

Pres. LeRoy Turner of the Salt Lake Granite Park Stake said the tragedy resulted from uncommon circumstances.

"We are concerned that parents don't worry unduly about their children when they are participating in activities," Pres. Turner said. "This particular activity was properly conceived, well planned, extremely well prepared and well equipped. The members of the group got in trouble when they got in the canyon and found the water was deeper than they were told it would be."

Preparation for the hike began several months ago and it was postponed in June when a message from the National Park Service said the water in the creek was too high.

By the time the leaders realized the water was still too high, according to Pres. Turner, they were already in the canyon with no way out.

Rescuers had to use a winch to lift Brother Brewer and the boys almost 1,500 feet out of the canyon. They camped at the top of the canyon the night of July 19 and were airlifted to park headquarters the next morning.

"Mostly the boys are now sound as far as physical condition is concerned," Pres. Turner said.

The safety of the boys was Brother Brewer's only concern during the ordeal, according to Pres. Turner.

They held sacrament meeting Sunday, had group prayers on an hourly basis and passed the time by singing hymns.

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