Convoy rescued after GPS led them to Utah cliff Tue Aug 5, 9:27 PM ET
A GPS device led a convoy of tourists astray, finally stranding them on the edge of a sheer cliff.
With little food or water, the group of 10 children and 16 adults from California had to spend a night in their cars deep inside the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.
They used a global positioning device to plot out a backcountry route Saturday from Bryce Canyon National Park to the Grand Canyon.
But the device couldn't tell how rough the roads were. One vehicle got stuck in soft sand, two others ran low on fuel. And the device offered suggestions that led them onto the wrong dirt roads, which ended at a series of cliffs.
The group was so lost it couldn't figure out how to backtrack and started to panic. Kids were crying, and one infant was sick with fever, according to a member of the party.
"It was a nightmare — the vacation from hell," Daniel Cohen, back home safely in Los Angeles, told The Associated Press on Tuesday. "That's a story I will tell my kids. For now, I don't want anybody to know about it."
From Grosvenor Arch, where the travelers stopped, they should have taken the better-traveled Cottonwood Canyon Road. Instead, they took Four Mile Bench Road, which takes a meandering southeasterly path. Chief Deputy Tracy Glover said the convoy took one wrong turn after another onto a succession of lesser dirt paths that are barely passable in the best of weather. They finally ended so some 25 miles from Grosvenor Arch near Tibbet Canyon.
"They just kept driving and driving and driving," Glover told the AP.
Cohen said the group had no idea it was setting off in the wrong direction.
"A friend with navigation device said we should go that way, and we all went that went," he said. "I had no clue where we were, I can tell you that. But the next day when we saw the airplane, we were jumping."
Glover said a GPS device is no substitute for good judgment or detailed topographical maps.
"People can start down a nice, graded dirt road and it can soon turn into boulders and deep washes, but they continue driving instead of turning around. I don't understand it," Glover told The Salt Lake Tribune. "The shortest way is not always the quickest way."
It took a lot of back-and-forth cell phone calls, but sheriff's deputies were able to find the group Sunday and lead them back out to Cannonville.
It wasn't the first time Staircase visitors have wandered into near oblivion. Dozens have been stranded since the monument was created in 1996, often with the false encouragement of a GPS device, said Bureau of Land Management spokesman Larry Crutchfield.
A group of Belgium tourists had to lick condensation off their minivan's windshield for water after being stranded on Four Mile Bench in May 2007. Riders on all-terrain vehicles stumbled across the group.
In the same country in early March 2003, a South African man living in London and his Quincy, Mass., girlfriend were stranded for six days by a powerful snowstorm.
Rachel Crowley, 27, died four miles after setting out from their buried rental Jeep. A cattle rancher found George Metcalfe, 27, staggering 15 miles away on Four Mile Bench Road. He survived.