Page last updated at 08:22 GMT, Wednesday, 20 August 2008 09:22 UK

Grand Canyon hikers rescued

Tim Chittenden and Lisa Luther
Tim and his girlfriend Lisa start their Grand Canyon hike

Tim Chittenden and his girlfriend Lisa Luther were on a weekend hiking trip in the Grand Canyon with some friends when days of heavy rain caused a nearby dam to burst.

Approximately 170 people had to be airlifted to safety by US rescue crews when the Redlands Dam burst causing flooding in a side canyon in Arizona.

Tim's story

We decided to go hiking in the area at the weekend with some friends. We made it to a campsite in the Supai village area where we planned to stay.

The site itself was split by a beautiful but shallow river which people were able to paddle through.

Waterfall in the Grand Canyon
The waterfall near Tim's campsite

We had set up camp and settled down for the night when I was woken up by another camping party shouting around midnight.

There were campers on both sides of the river, which is normally very slow moving. When I woke up the river was flowing very fast.

The water wasn't rising at that time, and after a while it looked like it had started to recede so we tried to get back to sleep.

About an hour later I heard people packing up and walking past our tent, they were telling everyone that they should leave. I decided then that we should pack up and move to higher ground, much higher ground.

Fast flowing waterfall
Following heavy rain the waterfall became a raging torrent

We tried to get some sleep under the stars in a corner of the campground. There was about 60 people doing the same thing.

A couple of hours later I woke up, as I couldn't see anyone around I assumed that everyone had managed to get to sleep.

At daybreak when I woke up there was only one person left in the area and he said we should leave.

As I looked around I could see that the whole campsite was under water. I also saw the river, it was now a raging river hundreds of feet wide.

The water wasn't deep but it was flowing very fast. We saw one guy try to walk through an area of the river which was still fairly shallow, only about 12 inches deep. At one point he lost his footing and I thought he was a goner. Thankfully he managed to grab a tree, and eventually got out safely.

Brian Childree and Christine Tate
Tim's friends Brian Childree and Christine Tate wait to be airlifted

The Indian tribe were directing people up the side of a mountain to higher ground. Using a rope we climbed up and hiked out to safety.

Air rescue helicopters then plucked the stranded people from trees, rocks and mountain sides. The next day we were airlifted out of the village.

Some people lost pretty much everything, including car keys. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) had a lock smith at their command centre. They were helping people get back into their cars so they could drive home once they were out.

Thankfully, we were never in any real danger while we were there, but many others were lucky to get out alive.



SEE ALSO
Grand Canyon rescue as dam bursts
18 Aug 08 |  Americas


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