Three men, all Boy Scout and church leaders, are in hot water after one of them pushed over a small mushroom-shaped rock pinnacle that was millions of years old while another videotaped and a third watched, according to The Salt Lake Tribune.
The incident occurred Oct. 11 at Goblin Valley State Park in Utah, 216 miles southeast of Salt Lake City, where thousands of similar formations known as goblins abound in a showcase of geological history.
The men, who might be facing misdemeanor or felony charges, believed they were doing their civic duty by destroying the precariously balanced boulder before it fell on its own and killed a child.
Park spokesman Eugene Swalberg told the Tribune on Thursday that a criminal investigation is underway by State Parks authorities.
"It is not only wrong, but there will be consequences," Swalberg said. "This is highly, highly inappropriate. This is not what you do at state parks. It's disturbing and upsetting."
The Tribune posted the video, which first appeared on Facebook but was later taken down:
In the video, you see Glenn Taylor pushing the boulder off its pedestal and the three men (video-taker Dave Hall and Dylan Taylor were the others) celebrating with laughter and high-fives.
"Some little kid was about ready to walk down here and die and Glenn saved his life by getting the boulder out of the way," Hall said on the video. "So it's all about saving lives here at Goblin Valley."
The men regretted their actions but also defended them.
"Glad we did it, wish we wouldn't have done it," Taylor told the Tribune on Thursday, adding that he wished he could take back his actions.
They were worried about the safety of children since a family had just left the area.
"I put my hand on [the] rock and it moved," Taylor 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."
Taylor told the paper that as he walked back to his car he thought he should have contacted a ranger about the loose rock. But Hall said they only saw one ranger and he was at the park entrance.
"With the information we had we made the best decision we could," Hall told the Tribune. "We weren't there for vandalism or anything like that.
"We're extremely sorry for our actions. There was in no way shape or form any intent to go out there and cause any harm to our natural resources."
Geologists say the rock dates back about 165 million years though the toppled formation was formed no more than 20 million years ago.
Deputy Emery County Attorney Brent Langston said he was aware of the incident, but it hasn't been presented to his office yet for screening for possible charges.
“It's not one we see every day,” Langston said.
“Some things can't be replaced, like photographs in a family album, but they have great sentimental value,” he said.
He said anyone involved, including anyone who encouraged the criminal behavior, could face anywhere from a class B misdemeanor to a second-degree felony depending on how much the formation is valued.
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