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SALT LAKE CITY — Two days after a family vacation went horribly wrong, a Colorado family that was stranded on a Utah river believes an unseen hand was at work in their survival.
The Vonesh family had taken a vacation to raft along the Escalante River, a place the family called their “happy place.” But an unforeseen hazard, a wild stretch of weather, pinned and flipped one of the rafts the family was on.
“It was pretty terrifying,” Jessie Vonesh said. “Everything just happened so fast.”
All of the family’s rafts were stuck on the other side of some boulders and they needed to find another way out.
“It was ‘game-on’ mode,” Jay Vonesh recalled. “We worked together as almost as if we’d trained for it.”
However, nothing came easy for the family after losing their gear. Additionally, the food and medicine the family did have was starting to run out. But to get out of the area, the family would have needed to hike 10 miles in potentially steep and crumbling terrain.
After two days of being stranded and not seeing anyone for help, the family said they turned to a higher power.
“We all sat down to pray and within 2 minutes, the helicopter comes down into our canyon,” Julie Vonesh said, speaking about a Department of Public Safety helicopter that accidentally spotted the family after searching for a missing kayaker last seen in the area.
“These guys were our angels,” Jay Vonesh, a pastor in Colorado, said. “Whether they recognized the hand of God moving them to us or not, it was beyond reasonable calculation for them to be where they were when they were.”
That hard-to-explain calculus made a difference between life and death for the Vonesh family.
“It’s God’s design,” Jay Vonesh added. “It’s His goodness, it’s his game.”
Despite being stranded for two days, the Vonesh family said they haven’t lost their love for “wild places” and that they’ll continue to trek into the desert in the future.