A Moab man was killed March 13 in a rappelling accident at Pool Arch in the Pritchett Canyon area southwest of Moab. Zachary John Taylor, 20, died at the scene from injuries he sustained in a 120-foot fall while attempting to rappel down a rock wall just north of the arch, according to Lt. Kim Neal of the Grand County Sheriff’s Office.
The accident occurred at approximately 8 p.m. after Taylor and five friends had hiked to the arch from the Pritchett Canyon trailhead. The group, all in their early 20s, planned to make the popular rappel down the rock wall then camp overnight at the arch, also known as Teardrop Arch, Neal said. The other five people in the group successfully completed the rappel, but when Taylor started down the wall an anchor on the rope system failed, Neal said. The group had anchored the rappelling ropes at the top of the climb by hooking a carabiner onto a loop of 1-inch webbing that was secured around a juniper tree using a type of knot called a “water knot,” Neal said.
He said investigators said the method and equipment were “pretty standard,” and all the harnesses and ropes appeared to be in good working order.
“They weren’t attempting anything unusual, as I understand it,” Neal said. “It was just an accident.”
He said the knot tied in the webbing came undone as Taylor began his descent.
“The cause of the accident was a failure in the knot of the webbing that was used as an anchor,” he said. “I can’t determine exactly why it failed, just that it did.”
Three members of the group hiked and ran for almost two hours to reach the trailhead, then found a nearby home where they called for help at 9:21 p.m., according to Neal. Cell phone service in the area is “sketchy,” he said, noting that he was unable to find a cell phone signal while in the area that night.
Emergency personnel from Grand County Emergency Medical Services, along with Grand County Search and Rescue volunteers and sheriff’s deputies responded to the scene and began hiking into the area. A medical helicopter was dispatched from St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction, Colo., and a Utah Department of Public Safety helicopter was also called in to provide assistance, Neal said.
Although the arch is located only a few miles from Moab, the approximately two-mile trail into the area travels through narrow rock fins and difficult ascents, making it impossible to access by vehicle, Neal said.
“There was no way to get vehicles into that location so EMS was flown in using the [Department of Public Safety] helicopter,” Neal said.
Rescue personnel reached Taylor by helicopter at approximately 11 p.m., and he was pronounced dead at the scene. Officials determined it was too dangerous to attempt to remove Taylor’s body at night, so a search and rescue worker stayed at the scene until the body could be recovered the following morning, Neal said.
The two friends who had stayed with Taylor while the rest sought help were taken by helicopter from the accident scene to the Pritchett Canyon trailhead, he said.
Taylor is the son of Kristin Millis and Tom Taylor, both of Moab. A funeral service will be held for Zachary Taylor on Saturday, March 23, at 1 p.m. at the Grand County High School auditorium, 264 S. 400 East. A viewing will be held on Friday, March 22 from 6 to 8 p.m. at Spanish Valley Mortuary, 386 N. 100 West.