Kane County Sheriff’s Office
Elderly couple survives six days in Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument
Early on the afternoon of Monday, October 2, Dell LeFevre, of Panguitch, Utah, encountered an elderly female laying on the Croton Road in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. LeFevre was checking on cattle he has on the monument when he located Helena Byler, 78, of Houston, Texas. Helena was severely dehydrated and confused about what had taken place. After contacting a dispatch center, LeFevre transported Mrs. Byler south toward Big Water on the Smokey Mountain Road where he met with a Kane County Sheriff’s Deputy dispatched to meet them. The deputy provided transport to the Kane County Hospital.
While traveling to the hospital and after having some food and water, Helena was able to remember some details of what happened to her. She said she and her husband, Gerald Byler, 76, had left their motel in Kanab on Tuesday morning, September 26, for a day trip to see Lake Powell. She indicated they were using a GPS device. When they had not returned by Wednesday morning, the motel reported them as overdue.
It was determined that her husband must still be with their vehicle. The couple was driving a KIA rental car, which had become undriveable because of the condition of the road they were on. Helena remembered something about being on Grand Bench Road, which would have been to the east of where she was found.
Another Kane County Deputy was dispatched to the area to try and locate the vehicle. Classic Air Medical was also contacted and dispatched a medical helicopter out of Page, Arizona, to search for the car and Mr. Byler.
The helicopter crew discovered an SOS sign made out of rocks and flowers at the junction of the Croton and Grand Bench Roads. They then flew east following the Grand Bench Road locating the vehicle about three miles from the SOS sign at Croton/Grand Bench junction. They landed near the car, but did not find Gerald with the car. They worked their way back up the road about a half-mile where there was a couple of old trailers near a corral.
They found Gerald in one of the trailers still alive, but like Helena he was very dehydrated and unable to move. The helicopter transported Mr. Byler to Dixie Regional Medical Center where he was immediately put into ICU. Helena spent one night in Kane County Hospital, and after being discharged, was transported to St. George to be with her husband.
Helena indicated that after they could go no further in the car, they began walking back up the road. It got dark and they spent Tuesday night out in the rain. Wednesday morning, she left Gerald who couldn’t walk any further, to get help. It was five days later when she was found by LeFevre.
She recounts stories of talking to dispatchers on the phone, a helicopter coming to pick up her husband, and tales of being in granite buildings and seeing other people who would not talk to her or help her. It appears she may have spent a couple of days in one of the old trailers not knowing that her husband was in another one nearby. The days without food and water caused her to see and hear things that were not real. Even after being released from the hospital, those experiences were very real and vivid to her. She said she did drink water from puddles when she found some.
As of Monday, October 9, Gerald Byler was still hospitalized but greatly improved. Both he and Helena are expected to recover completely and should be able to return home to Texas soon.
Thanks to all those who had a part in this incident. Many little things fell into place that allowed the Bylers to be located alive. From LeFevre making the choice to use the road he did, to the cooler weather, and to the assistance of Classic Air Medical. One more day would probably have resulted in a very different outcome.
By Alan Alldredge,
Kane County Sheriff’s Office
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