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PROVO — Two men were arrested Saturday after allegedly rigging booby traps near a trail in South Fork Canyon.
Benjamin Rutkowski, 19, or Orem and Kai Christensen, 21, of Provo were booked into the Utah County Jail for investigation of reckless endangerment, a class A misdemeanor.
Sgt. Spencer Cannon of the Utah County Sheriff's Office said a forest service officer was patrolling the Big Springs Trail area on Monday when he noticed what appeared to be a trip wire near the entrance of a rudimentary shelter. The wire was connected to a device that if tripped, would have sent a ball of sharpened sticks swinging toward the face or head of a person entering the shelter. Another trip wire was set up at a second entrance, which would have caused a person to fall down on sharpened sticks placed in the ground.
Cannon said the shelter was one of many in an area that is frequently visited by hikers and campers.
"There was potential for some very serious injury to someone," Cannon said. "If someone fell the wrong way it could have been disastrous or even fatal."
After identifying the traps, the forest service officer worked with deputies from the sheriff's office to contact individuals familiar with the shelter on social media websites. After speaking with witnesses, officials were able to identify Rutkowski and Christensen.
Cannon said both men confessed their involvement in setting the traps on Sunday, the day before they were discovered by the forest service officer. The men said they were trying to target animals but Cannon was skeptical, saying that the nature of the traps and their placement at a popular hiking destination doesn't make sense as an animal trap.
"We believe they knew people would be going there and that's why they put them there," Cannon said.
Cannon said that hikers and campers should always be alert to dangers on a trail but that the traps are inherently unusual. He said marijuana grows and other illegal activity sites are known to use booby traps but he's never seen this type of device in a recreational area.
"People don't go up expecting this and they shouldn't have to," he said.