Merrell Boot Co. Family Members Swept Away in Grand Canyon Creek; Search Continues for Teen, Grandmother

Associated Press
Published: April 19, 2017

Searchers continue to look for a 14-year-old boy and his grandmother, who were swept away by a flooded creek while hiking in the Grand Canyon. 

The uncle of the missing teen told the Associated Press that Jackson Standefer, 14, his mother and his step-grandparents were crossing a water trail Saturday evening when Jackson and Lou-Ann Merrell fell in and were swept away by the water.

Merrell is the wife of Randy Merrell, who helped found the Merrell Boot Co.

The Merrells, Standefer and the boy's mother were on a path known as Tapeats Trail when the pair fell, authorities said. The Merrell family accessed the area by hiking down from the North Rim.

This Sunday, April 16, 2017, photo provided by the National Park Service shows Tapeats Creek in Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona. Authorities are searching for 14-year-old Jackson Standefer (inset), and Lou-Ann Merrell, 62, after the pair lost their footing Saturday and fell into the water during a family trip in a remote area of the Arizona park.
(National Park Service via AP)
The trail is not particularly difficult to hike for experienced backpackers, said Chris Forsyth, president of the Grand Canyon Hikers & Backpackers Association board. But heavy water rushing through the creek can make it challenging, he said.

An intense search effort that includes three ground teams consisting of about 20 people total, a National Park Service helicopter, a drone and an inflatable motor raft that was flown into the canyon has been underway since the weekend.

 Search crews are looking within a mile and a mile and half of where the hikers were last seen, as well as where the creek meets the Colorado River.

"We're really just looking in the water and areas where someone maybe would have been able to get out," Martin said.

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Mark McOmie, the boy's uncle, said the Merrells are avid hikers and know the area well. Lou-Ann Merrell is "a very experienced backpacker," McOmie said. "If they can get to a spot where they cannot be in the water and stay warm, she's got the skills needed to get them through it."

The parent organization of the Merrell Boot Co., Wolverine Worldwide, issued a statement Tuesday.

"Our thoughts, prayers, and hearts are with the Merrell family. We are grateful to the people working around the clock and continue to be hopeful," said Jim Zwiers, executive vice president.

The park service said it hasn't determined what went wrong and that there was no rain or flash flooding reported in the area.

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.

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