NewsLocal NewsButler CountyWest Chester


'There's just no guarantees': West Chester man, friend die in canyon at Utah-Arizona border

Investigators said a flashflood swept the two away
Ohio men dead in canyon
Posted at 8:31 PM, May 23, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-24 12:45:27-04

KANE COUNTY, Utah — Two Ohio men — one from West Chester and another from Kettering — were found dead in a canyon near the border of Utah and Arizona Sunday morning.

A search and rescue team member who also works as a back-country guide reported that a group hiking in the area found a man dead just south of the Paria River and Buckskin Gulch junction. FOX 13 News in Salt Lake City said agencies worked on attempting to identify the body after a joint recovery mission.

Officials said West Chester police contacted Kane County on Monday morning to report that two men had not returned from their trip to the area. Using photos provided by the family, police in Utah were able to identify the body as 65-year-old Gary York of West Chester.

After learning that another man was with York, officials tried to locate a second hiker. They found the body of 72-year-old John Walter of Kettering by Monday night.

untitled image - 2023-05-23T084648.081.jpg
Gary York (left) and John Walter (right)

Officials report that an investigation suggests a flash flood caught the pair by surprise while they were hiking and swept them away in a "rushing wall of water."

York was carried close to 10 miles down the canyon by the flood waters and Walter was swept about seven to eight miles downstream.

"Cried myself to sleep last night and got up at 4 a.m. after not a lot of great sleep," said Aaron York, Gary York's son. "My dad used to say, 'I love you as big as the sky, as long as the road and as deep as the ocean forever and ever,' and I think that's how he lived that's how we're going to get through this."

WCPO found out Walter just lost his wife Marcy after a long illness in April. Both York and Walter were going on a 10-day hiking trip as part of a bucket list trip.

"I said I want you to honor Uncle John the way he loved Aunt Marcy, he really loved her in a very Christ-like way," said Aaron York. "He kept his vows, he remained faithful in a very difficult circumstance — her health had declined and she was bedridden the last six months of her life and he did not leave her side."

Aaron misses his father, but reflects on the lessons he taught him, finding strength in love and never giving up.

"One of those reflective questions I've been thinking about, just don't put your dreams on hold don't wait to live your dreams until it's convenient or makes sense. Try to seize the day as much as possible, there's just no guarantees," said Aaron York.

In March, two hikers from Florida were killed and one was rescued in the same canyon as flood waters swept through the area.

Experts previously said that at over 20 miles, Buckskin Gulch is considered to be one of the most dangerous slot canyons in the U.S., with very few access or extraction points along the route.