Authorities say an Arizona man is lucky to be alive after he got trapped in quicksand in Utah’s Zion National Park for several hours on Saturday amid freezing conditions.
Ryan Osmun, 34, was hiking with his girlfriend, Jessika McNeill, along the park’s “subway route” when they said she tripped in a shallow creek that turned out to be quicksand.
Osmun said he went to help pull her out, but in the process, his entire right leg became swallowed by the sand.
“There was no chance of moving it at all. The sand had surrounded the whole leg and I couldn’t move it,” Osmun told CBS News. “The best way to describe it would be … standing in a huge puddle of concrete ― that basically dries instantly.”
Making matters worse, the area they were in had no cellphone reception.
According to Encyclopedia Britannica, despite what many have seen in Hollywood movies, there is no risk of someone sinking to the bottom of quicksand and drowning, because the sand, which acts like a liquid because it is saturated with water, is denser than the human body. Instead, a torso would float on the surface.
Getting unstuck is the real challenge.
The best way to describe it would be … standing in a huge puddle of concrete ― that basically dries instantly.
“Physicists have calculated that the force required to extract your foot from quicksand at a rate of one centimeter per second is roughly equal to the force needed to lift a medium-sized car,” according to the encyclopedia’s website.
McNeill, speaking to local reporters, said she tried to free Osmun with sticks and by digging before finally leaving to find help.
“I thought for sure when she left that I would lose my leg,” Osmun told ABC 15 News. “It was pouring snow.”
It ultimately took McNeill three hours to get to a place where she was able to call 911 and notify park rangers, who took several hours to reach Osmun. Once found, he was described as stable but experiencing exposure, hypothermia and extremity injuries. After two hours of attempts, the rangers were able to free his leg, the park said in a release.
“When he walked up, he said, ‘I’ll be honest with you, you should be dead or unconscious right now,’” Osmun said of one rescue crew member.
McNeill was also treated for signs of hypothermia, the park said.
Because of the bad weather, the rescue team was forced to stay with the couple at the scene overnight until a helicopter was able to carry them to safety the next day. During the night, four additional inches of snow fell, the park said.
Alyssa Baltrus, a spokeswoman for the park, stressed to The Washington Post that although quicksand is rare, “it does happen if conditions are right.”
“We have been unusually wet here this winter. The weather was most likely a contributing factor,” she said.