Utah men under criminal investigation for toppling ancient rock

Three Utah men took video of themselves toppling over an ancient rock formation in Utah’s Goblin Valley State Park are under criminal investigation for their actions, officials said Friday.

After viewing the video -- which shows one man pushing at the top of a mushroom-like rock formation until the boulder breaks off its rock stem and falls over -- parks officials immediately launched an investigation, Fred Hayes, director of the Utah Division of Parks and Recreation, told the Los Angeles Times.

Goblin Valley State Park, about a four-hour drive south of Salt Lake City, has thousands of similar rock formations, called goblins, which have been shaped by water and wind over millions of years.

As one man toppled the rock another took the video while a third man looked on.


When the goblin -- also called a hoodoo -- tumbled off its perch, the three men laugh, cheer and high-five.

“We have now modified Goblin Valley,” shouts Dave Hall, who recorded the incident, according to the Salt Lake Tribune. “Muscles over here pushed it off,” says Hall, pointing to Glenn Taylor, a fellow Boy Scout leader and youth leader for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Taylor later told the Tribune that he was concerned by the fragile condition of the rock and the danger it posed to hikers.

“I put my hand on a rock and moved,” he said. “While we were sitting right there we thought, ‘Man if this rock falls it’ll kill them.’ I didn’t have to push hard.”

The video, which was posted on Facebook, has been removed, but a copy posted by the Tribune had garnered more than 750,000 views as of Friday morning.

The Emery County district attorney’s office is assisting the criminal investigation, and will ultimately decide whether any of the men face charges, Hayes said.

Possible charges range from a class-B misdemeanor to a second-degree felony, the county’s deputy district attorney told the Tribune.

As for the trio’s justification that they were defending hikers from lethal hazards, Hayes said he is doubtful.

“I’ve watched the video several times -- and I don’t see that concern expressed,” Hayes said.

Hayes said he could not recall any previous instance in which a goblin tumbled over and injured hikers.

“We’ve had some injuries in the goblins,” said Hayes, “but they are usually twisted ankles.”


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