Bailey family, stranded in Utah wilderness, calls rescue a miracle

BAILEY, Colo. -- A family from Bailey is back home after an exhausting ordeal. A kayaking mishap left them stranded in the southern Utah wilderness over the weekend.

Jay and Julie Vonesh, their two daughters and dog were soaking up the beauty of southern Utah when their trip turned messy.

"As Moab gets more crowded, we push farther and farther out into the remote areas," Jay Vonesh said.

It was in that remote area, along the Escalante River, where the family unexpectedly found themselves in stronger-than-normal river currents during a kayaking trip.

Rapids that can make kayaking an exciting adventure only grew stronger and more dangerous.

The damaging force was so strong that the family’s kayaks flipped and paddles were ripped from their hands. They said they quickly realized they were in trouble.

"We were in the middle of nowhere," Jay Vonesh said.

Cellphones did not work in the remote area. The family did not have adequate shelter. With food and water to last only a few days, the Voneshes set up a makeshift camp along the river and waited.

Jay Vonesh, a pastor in Bailey for more than 20 years, turned to God.

"His hand of goodness was with us even when things were hard,” Vonesh said.

Twenty-four hours went by without seeing a soul. Day two arrived and, still, no one was in sight. Not sure how much longer they would be stranded, the family again turned to God. In that moment, they say He worked a miracle.

"We sat down to pray and we prayed, and within two minutes, the helicopter showed up," Julie Vonesh said.

A rescue team searching for another stranded kayaker spotted the family on a sandbar just large enough to perform an airlift rescue.

The other kayaker the crew was originally sent to rescue was also found and is reportedly doing well.