A pastor and his family who were stranded by a Utah river for two days say their prayers saved them.
Jay Vonesh, a 53-year-old youth pastor from Bailey, Colo., was rafting on the Escalante River with his wife and two daughters on Friday when severe weather that moved into the area made the waters dangerously rough.
“Our boats got stuck on boulders, we got swept under the boulders, it was terrifying,” he told KMGH.
The family of four, along with their chocolateLabrador Retriever, decided to ditch their rafts and hike alongside the river in search of help. They ended up spending two nights in a steep canyon with no cell service, KTVX reported.
Vonesh’s wife, Julie, said they had enough food for a “day or two” but she was running out of her medication.
“We just kind of didn’t know what we were going to do,” she said.
The family’s faith comforted them during the ordeal, and they knew that God heard their prayers.
“We sat on a sandbar and basically said ‘God, can you give us a hand here? We’re out of options,'” Vonesh said.
Within “two minutes,” a search and rescue helicopter appeared, he said.
The ironic part: The helicopter wasn’t searching for them.
A helicopter crew from the Utah Department of Public Safety and a deputy from the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office “accidentally” came across the Vonesh family while searching for a missing kayaker, the agency said.
The family appeared to be in “obvious distress” when they were found, DPS said.
Utah DPS Chief Pilot Luke Bowman told KTVX that he and the helicopter’s flight commander spotted the Vonesh first.
“We saw a guy step out on a sandbar and started waving at us — signaling and waving his hat in the air,” Bowman said.
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One of the couple’s teenage daughters, Janae Vonesh, said she started crying when the chopper arrived. Her sister, Jessie Vonesh, said it was “encouraging” to know the crew was there to help them.
“The mom especially was very excited that we were there,” Bowman said. “She kind of made a comment like ‘I don’t care what happens. Just get me out of the canyon’. They were pretty excited. They were ready to get out.”
The crew then airlifted the family to the Escalante Municipal Airport, according to DPS. Back in Colorado, they reflected on their journey.
“You talk about an answered prayer, it doesn’t get much more profounder, obvious than that,” Vonesh said, adding that he plans on sharing some of the lessons learned on prayer and perseverance with his congregation.
The kayaker who rescuers were originally looking for returned safety to base camp on his own, DPS said.
(H/T: ABC News)
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