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Box Elder County searchers find stranded family

Published July 3, 2013 5:48 pm

Crews locate mom, dad and three children who spent the night in rugged Perry Canyon.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Perry, Box Elder County • A missing family of five campers was rescued Wednesday from rugged Perry Canyon, where they spent the night after becoming lost.

Box Elder County Sheriff's Sgt. Steve Berry reported about 11:30 a.m. Wednesday that the family — mother, father and three children — were located in good shape.

They were identified as Holly Cowsert and her daughter Mandy, 12, and David Cowsert and his two sons, Polo, 13, and Nate, 12. The Cowserts are residents of Perry.

The two boys told news reporters they lost their bearings in the canyon after hiking up to explore a cave on Tuesday. They spent the night in their tent, and heard rescuers calling for them Wednesday morning.

Nate said he and his family were looking forward to eating some food and taking showers. He said that even though they had run out of food and were thirsty, they were never afraid because their father is an experienced outdoorsman.

"I trust my dad," the seventh-grader said. "It was really cool. It was like an adventure."

David and Holly Cowsert declined to speak to media Wednesday afternoon.

At about 2:30 a.m. Wednesday, a Department of Public Safety helicopter searching for the Cowserts with an infrared camera spotted at least three people waving to them from the vicinity of a peak called London Spire.

And about a half-hour later, a fire was seen in the same area.

There had been speculation that the family started the blaze as a way to signal rescuers. And officials had worried the group might be threatened by the flames. But Berry said Wednesday, after talking to the family, that they were never anywhere near where the fire was burning. The boys also said that no one in their party started a fire.

Kathy Jo Pollock of the U.S. Forest Service's Interagency Fire Center said the small fire, dubbed the London Spire Fire, was "definitely human-caused," but that the specifics of who caused it were still under investigation Wednesday. Hotshot crews from Logan were dispatched at dawn to fight the blaze, which held steady at about 1.5 acres. Pollock said that crews expected to have the fire fully contained by Thursday evening.

The blaze was being fought by crews from the U.S. Forest Service, Box Elder County and Perry City. About 20 firefighters are involved in the effort.

Polo told reporters that he was glad to see many of his extended family waiting for them when they were brought to the Perry Canyon trail head at about noon. Polo called the ordeal a "good bonding experience."

The family was dropped off Monday at Perry Reservoir and planned to hike to the Perry Canyon trail head, where a relative was waiting to pick them up at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, according to the sheriff.

When the group failed to show up, the relative called authorities and put the search in motion.

Holly Cowsert's grandfather, Sid Smith of Farmington, said he was waiting at the trail head all night Tuesday. Many other family members, including the boys' mother and Mandy's older sister, had also been waiting anxiously. The family members expressed relief after receiving news that the Cowserts were safe.

"We're grateful to the search and rescue people," Smith said.

kbennion@sltrib.com