iPhone 14’s Emergency SOS via Satellite saves the day for Utah college kids trapped in 500-foot deep canyon


Since the iPhone 14 Pro was released with its new Emergency SOS via Satellite features last year, we’ve heard a handful of stories about the feature being used to help iPhone users in dire situations. A new story out of Utah this week once again highlights the power of Emergency SOS via Satellite, when three college students found themselves stranded after a hiking trip took a turn for the worse…

iPhone 14’s Emergency SOS via Satellite saves the day

As reported by local news outlet KUTV, three BYU college students were hiking through “The Squeeze, a difficult rappel slot canyon in Emery County.” According to a recap of the situation posted to Facebook by the Emery County Sheriff’s Office, hiking through The Squeeze “takes an entire day and would be extra difficult and dangerous at night.”

In the case of these three BYU students, they had done their research and were prepared for the day’s hike, but faced an unexpected challenge when they “reached one deep pool” along the journey. The news story was first spotted by AppleInsider.

“We suspect that Utah’s extra wet winter changed the canyon somewhat resulting in a much harder scenario than we were prepared for,” one of the students, Jeremy Mumford, said. The three ended up getting stuck in this part of the journey, with one of the students developing hypothermia symptoms after being stuck in the water for several hours:

“I went into hypothermic shock and started panicking and freezing up, and these two saw me and became very concerned,” said Mumford. The group then reached another deep area where the water was up to their chest and with another person on their shoulder, they couldn’t reach the top to move beyond the pool.

“We just reached that point where we couldn’t get him out, we couldn’t get me out, we kept Jeremy up above the rappel and it was about a 10 to 15 foot free-hanging rappel into this pothole and that’s when we realized, we’re stuck,” said Woods, who said he’d been in the cold water for nearly three hours at that point, who started to experience symptoms of hypothermia.

The area where the three were stranded “was about 500 feet deep of sheer, rock walls,” so they didn’t have traditional cellular connectivity.

At that point, the three turned to an iPhone 14 with Emergency SOS via Satellite to help them communicate with rescue officials. Mumford explained to KUTV that they were able to get a satellite connection about once every 20 minutes to send text messages with updates.

“The canyon was about 500 feet deep of sheer, rock walls but about every 20 minutes a satellite would line up where we were in the canyon and by holding the phone up we could get a signal where we could text 911 to Emery County and that definitely saved our butts,” described Mumford.

With the information that the group had communicated to emergency officials via text, rescue teams were able to locate them. Once they arrived, search and rescue teams were able to use a helicopter to lower a rescuer, then hoist the subjects to safety one-by-one.

The SAR Rope Team was geared up and ready to be inserted somewhere near the parties, but rescuers were hopeful that the subjects were in a location where helicopter crews could lower a rescuer and then hoist the subjects to safety that night. Fortunately, this was the case, and two of the helicopters were certified for night hoists. Between 11:00 p.m. and midnight, all three subjects were hoisted to safety and medically assessed once they were on the ground at the staging area.

This was a huge effort involving multiple agencies in a very remote area of Emery County. Wayne County Search and Rescue responded with fuel for the helicopters, and the Hanksville ambulance responded to provide medical care.

Speaking after the rescue, the three BYU students praised the iPhone 14’s Emergency SOS via Satellite feature and encouraged anyone planning a similar excursion to take a phone with satellite capabilities. “That definitely saved our butts,” Mumford said.

As a refresher, Emergency SOS via satellite enables messaging with emergency services when outside of cellular or Wi-Fi coverage. Once your iPhone is connected to a satellite, you can reach emergency services regardless of cellular and Wi-Fi coverage. Satellite connectivity can also be used to share your location with friends and family via Find My.

Since it takes some time to establish a connection with the satellites, iPhone will ask users a few preloaded questions while the device is searching for a signal.

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