Crews search for hikers swept away in Grand Canyon creek

Frederick Owens
April 19, 2017

"This particular kind of incident is extremely rare, that two people would be washed away in a creek crossing is something that is nearly unheard of in our local memory of Grand Canyon incidents", Chief Ranger Matt Vandzura told ABC News.

Tapeats Creek, where Lou-Ann Merrell and Jackson Standefer, 14, lost their footing during a family trip, is not particularly hard to hike for experienced backpackers, said Chris Forsyth, president of the Grand Canyon Hikers & Backpackers Association board.

"If anybody can make, it she can make it", Sevenski said Tuesday. The family is hopeful that the two will be alright as the grandmother is the wife of a popular outdoor footwear company founder and has the necessary skills to keep both herself and her step-grandson alive until they can be found.

Temperatures are falling into the forties at night in the area.

The Merrells are familiar with the canyon's North Rim, where their most recent backpacking trip began, said Steve Labrum, a friend and neighbor.

"This particular kind of incident is extremely rare", Matt Vandzura the chief ranger at Grand Canyon National Park said. "It gives it a more unique sense of beauty", Forsyth said.

The National Park Service said some searchers would stay in the field overnight and conditions will determine whether they search.

The search resumed Tuesday with three ground teams of 20 people, plus a helicopter, drone and a motorized boat, which was checking along the banks of the Colorado River near its confluence with the creek, park spokeswoman Robin Martin told ABC News.

The helicopter picked up the other two hikers and crews started searching the area from the air. McOmie was not on the trip.

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McOmie says that Merrell is a very experienced backpacker. They were crossing a water crossing Julie and her father in law made it, Jackson and the mother in law did not. The odds aren't great.

While that means the pair won't have any food or supplies, search teams say there were indications that they had been able to take their backpacks off after they fell into the river.

McOmie revealed the searchers have located the backpacks the two missing hikers had when they were swept away by the water.

The four hikers in the group were on a different path known as Tapeats Trail, authorities said. It also is not known whether the water level in the Tapeats Creek was higher than normal at the time.

Creeks in the canyon often see higher water levels in the spring as snow melts. Forsyth said that he hasn't visited Tapeats Creek this year but has been to other parts of the park, where he's noticed more water than usual, he said.

Officials were alerted on Saturday night when an emergency Global Positioning System locator beacon was set off below the canyon's North Rim, said Chief Ranger Matt Vandzura of the National Park Service.

The McCallie School in Chattanooga, Tennessee, said Jackson was an eighth-grade student at the all-boys school.

A call to Merrell Footlab in Vernal, Utah, for comment on the search wasn't immediately returned Monday evening.

Other reports by LeisureTravelAid

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