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Family describes surviving nearly 24 hours stranded in Utah desert

Posted at 2:12 PM, May 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-18 17:59:37-04

TOOELE COUNTY, Utah — What was supposed to be a quick off-road ride to find a Utah landmark turned into an hours-long ordeal for one father and his two sons.

Brent Kolan and his two boys lost their way Saturday evening during a ride following a racing event in the west desert. After getting lost, their UTV and two motorcycles ran out of fuel.

“I had been out there 50 times. Don't know how we got so turned around and the wind came up,” Kolan said. “When the first kid’s bike ran out of gas, I thought, 'Man, this isn't good.'”

As the sun went down, the family hunkered down for the evening.

“Dug a hole like a dog would do,” Kolan said. “We got inside there and tried to keep each other warm until morning.”

The sunrise would bring new challenges. Without water or anywhere to take cover from the blazing sun, the trio was forced to search for an oasis.

“There was absolutely no shade, no anything there,” Kolan said. “I figured the best way was to get out of the sun and see if we could find a dirt road or something that looks like civilization.”

In the middle of the vast nothingness, Kolan and his sons found some trees and a creek.

“In the morning we got up and started walking again,” said Destry Kolan, Brent’s 11-year-old son. “Found shade, got up, found some water and started walking again”

Late Sunday afternoon, a search and rescue helicopter spotted the family’s abandoned vehicles and track marks. After being lost for nearly 24 hours, the family was found and brought to safety.

As he looks back on the events of the weekend, Brent realizes he is fortunate. He is also thankful for the work and prayers of dozens of volunteers, strangers, and rescuers who helped the family find their way home.

“I don't know what we would have done,” Kolan said. “Desert races are put on by volunteers, for that community. They will give you their left foot if they have to.”

“Thank you for coming out to find us,” Destry added when asked what he would say to each of the people who searched. “They must care about us.”

This story was originally published by John Franchi at KSTU.