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Utah dad describes how he, sons survived 3 days trapped in canyon

April 14, 2014 at 9:39 AM ET

Video: A Utah man, who survived a three-day ordeal along with his two sons in the Utah wilderness before being rescued, joins TODAY to discuss the harrowing experience.

A Utah man and his two sons survived a harrowing three days trapped inside a canyon until they were finally rescued on Saturday.

Jason Knight told TODAY on Monday how he and the boys, aged 11 and 8, embarked Wednesday on what was supposed to be a five-hour day of hiking, climbing and rappelling in four deep and incredibly narrow canyons in a remote area about 200 miles south of Salt Lake City.

“The entrances are, literally, less than a thousand feet apart, and we got down the wrong canyon,” Knight told TODAY's Carson Daly.

The trio had ended up in the Sandthrax Canyon, not the Leprechaun Canyon, and didn’t have the right ropes to get out. They camped there overnight, and in the morning, Knight, 35, decided to hike to the bottom so he could get out and fetch more gear.

But when he reached the canyon floor, he realized he was lost again, stuck in a rock silo.

Though they could neither see nor hear their father, the boys survived for two days by rationing a granola bar and some water. But good preparation — starting off with ample supplies for their intended five-hour hike — was what saved them, the father said.

“You have to have a plan, and you have to stick to that plan,” Knight said. “You have to teach your kids what to do in an emergency like that.”

The boys did as they were instructed and stayed in the same spot near the top of the canyon for two more days, until they were pulled to safety by a helicopter rescue team Saturday afternoon.

The whir of the chopper gave Knight hope, even in the dark depths of the crevice where he was trapped.

“The helicopter was a definitely good sound,” he said.

He knew the chopper’s rescue team would spot the boys and eventually find him, too.

“I was really far down into the canyon, so I actually had to climb up 50 feet and signal them, and it took four or five times for them to see me down at the bottom,” Knight said.

The specially trained extraction team in the helicopter pulled Knight to safety from hundreds of feet above him, he said.

The grateful dad offered his thanks and high praise for the Wayne and Garfield Counties’ rescue teams, whose search efforts likely saved the lives of him and his sons. Knight has since set up an online fundraising campaign to help pay for the rescue work and is accepting donations.

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