Tri-State brothers-in-law killed during ‘bucket list trip’ to Utah

Aaron, who is a pastor, says his faith and his family’s faith have been tested by the deaths of his father and uncle.
Published: May. 25, 2023 at 8:59 PM EDT
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SPRINGDALE, Ohio (WXIX) - Two brothers-in-law from the Tri-State were on a “bucket list trip” in Utah when a family member says they were killed in a flash flood.

The bodies of Gary York, 65, of West Chester, and John Walter, 72, of Kettering, were recovered after the two were reported missing while hiking in a Utah canyon, according to the Kane County Sheriff’s Office in Utah.

“It just hit so suddenly,” says Aaron York, Gary’s son. “You just don’t expect a bucket list trip to turn into a tragedy.”

Aaron, who is a pastor, says his faith and his family’s faith have been tested by the deaths of his father and uncle.

On May 23, the sheriff’s office in Utah confirmed the two brothers were swept away in a flash flood near the Buckskin Gulch in Utah.

“My uncle was in Utah, and my dad was in Arizona,” Aaron explains. “They experienced a natural flood, and we experienced a spiritual and emotional flood. We were just groping for some answers for our souls and trying to hold onto one another in that moment.”

Utah authorities said Gary and Walter had planned a five-mile hike through the canyon.

Given where the two men were at when the flooding started, Aarson says they were likely caught off guard.

“The way that that geography is if there is any water, a quarter inch of rain within 30 miles, it all drains to those canyons,” Aaron says. “There’s no cell service, so if you don’t have a phone and a guide, you won’t know that you are in imminent danger.”

Gary and Walter were in Utah to pay homage to Walter’s wife, Marcy Walter, who died in April.

“That’s really what brought my dad and my uncle together with such a close bond,” Aaron said of the brother’s relationship/ “[Marcy] had been bedridden for about six months, and my uncle John attended to her 24/7.”

Steve Dishon, a family friend, created a Go Fund Me that he hopes will bring physical and financial comfort to everyone grieving the loss of these two men.

“We’re hoping to raise at least $5,000,” Dishon explained. “It just makes you feel like you want to do something. You feel like you have to.”

A celebration of life service is being planned on June 5 for Walter in Sidney and one for Gary on June 9 at Vineyard Cincinnati Church, Aaron said.

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