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Last Updated:  Thursday, 6 March, 2003, 20:10 GMT
US tourist freezes to death
Rachel Crowley, who died in the snow
Rachel Crowley died in the snow near her jeep
An American woman has frozen to death after she and a companion were trapped for three days in snowdrifts in the remote wilderness of southern Utah.

The body of Rachel Crowley, 26, was discovered shortly after two ranchers came across her British boyfriend George Metcalfe, 27, as he tried to reach help.

The pair had been enjoying a trip to the Staircase-Escalante National Monument, a wilderness area in the south of the state, when their rented jeep was trapped in a snowstorm.

They spent three days braving the freezing conditions in the vehicle, surviving on sweets, sunflower seeds and melted ice, before attempting to hike to safety.

They were more than 32 kilometres (20 miles) from the nearest town and Ms Crowley became exhausted on the journey and unable to continue, forcing her boyfriend to go on alone to try to find help.

The worst part was waiting to die and not knowing what to do until we did
George Metcalfe

However, by the time he was rescued and a helicopter despatched to search for Ms Crowley it was too late and her body was found about six kilometres (four miles) from the car.

The grim discovery concluded a search operation that extended from the US, across the Atlantic to London, where police had uncovered Mr Metcalfe's credit card numbers at his home in an effort to trace the couple.

Bid for survival

Speaking from his hospital bed in Utah, Mr Metcalfe explained how the couple had tried to eke out their meagre rations and keep warm by turning on the car's heating for 10 minutes at hourly intervals.

"The worst part was waiting to die and not knowing what to do until we did. We both thought we would die there in the jeep as no-one had come to rescue us" he said in a telephone conversation with his London flatmate Lisa Weber.

Jeep in snow drift
Footprints lead away from the couple's abandoned jeep

"She was just so weak. I didn't want to leave her - I wanted to stay with her but Rachel said our only hope was if someone went for help," Mr Metcalfe said.

Mr Metcalfe had been visiting Ms Crowley at her home in Boston before the two of them flew to Las Vegas together on 21 February, telling friends they intended to visit Zion National Park.

Little preparation

The pair had been driving a route not regarded as safe in the winter and had not informed anyone of where they were going.

They were also ill-equipped for the extreme conditions they faced, being dressed in just sweatshirts, jeans and casual footwear.

He made a valiant effort, but he couldn't make it in time to help her
Garfield County Sheriff Than Cooper

"It was a sightseeing trip. They were just going for a few days," said Ms Crowley's mother.

As severe weather moved in the roads swiftly became impassable with a covering of at least one metre (three feet) of snow.

Their vehicle became stuck near Bryce Canyon National Park, officials said.

Mr Metcalfe was about 24 km (15 miles) from the jeep, when he stumbled across a rancher and his son out checking their cattle.

The rancher immediately radioed for help and the rescue helicopter found Ms Crowley's body an hour or so later.

Mr Metcalfe who was supposed to begin a new job in London on Monday, is now being joined in Utah by his father.




WATCH AND LISTEN
Police Lieutenant John McDonough
"She could not make it any further and begged him to get help"




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