Families ‘praying for miracle’ while park scales back search for 2 missing Grand Canyon hikers

Tapeats Creek in Grand Canyon National Park, Cococino County, Arizona, April 16, 2017 | Photo courtesy of the National Park Service, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — An extensive five-day search effort by the National Park Service will continue in a more limited form following the disappearance of a 14-year-old boy and his 62-year-old stepgrandmother who were swept away in a creek in Grand Canyon National Park after attempting to cross the water.

This photo of Lou Ann Merrell was taken at Grand Canyon National Park. Merrell was swept away in a creek in a remote area of the canyon, Cococino County, Arizona, date not specified. | Photo courtesy of Randy Merrell, St. George News

The hikers are identified as Lou Ann Merrell, 62, and Jackson Standefer, 14. The park was first alerted to their disappearance Saturday evening when their hiking party reported them missing via a GPS personal locating beacon.

They were hiking in a remote area of the park’s north rim when they lost their footing and were swept away while crossing Tapeats Creek, a tributary of the Colorado River.

The extensive search effort began Sunday morning. About 20 people were split into three ground teams that searched the grounds along Tapeats Creek and the Colorado River.

In addition to ground crews, the park service utilized a helicopter and crew, an unmanned aerial system and operator and an inflatable motor raft and associated search team.

The park also received assistance from the Arizona Department of Public Safety and county search and rescue crews.

This photo of Jackson Standefer was taken at Grand Canyon National Park. Merrell was swept away in a creek in a remote area of the canyon, Cococino County, Arizona, date not specified. | Photo courtesy of Julie Standefer-Merrell, St. George News

Search efforts will continue through Thursday but will likely begin to be scaled back Friday.

“If no additional information is discovered or received today, starting Friday April 21 the search will continue in a limited and continuous mode focused on public outreach and search efforts during regular backcountry patrols,” the National Park Service said in a news release.

The families of the missing hikers have worked actively with the park service on the search in concert with other volunteers.

“This morning the Merrell and Standefer families are still praying for a miracle in Grand Canyon National Park,” a representative for the families said in a news release. “After carefully considering all the information available to us, and based on our personal knowledge of the search area, we support Grand Canyon National Park’s (GCNP) decision to scale back the search.”

Read more: 2 hikers missing in Grand Canyon after being swept away in creek

The families are asking for privacy at this time and issued a statement of gratitude:

We thank the GCNP staff for their exemplary service. We know they have done everything possible since Saturday, April 15, to find Lou Ann and Jackson. We also know countless people were praying for a much different outcome than this one. We felt your prayers and were sustained by them in ways we cannot begin to describe. We are profoundly grateful for the support that continues to pour in from across the country.

The park will continue to investigate should any new information arise.

Lou Ann Merrell is described as a 62 year old female with blonde hair and blue eyes standing 5 foot 5 inches and weighing 145 pounds. She was last seen wearing khaki zip-off shorts, a blue/green button down short sleeve shirt and blue water shoes size 8 and a half.  She was carrying a homemade blue backpack with a maroon fleece and hiking poles attached.

Jackson Standefer is described as a 14 year old male with black hair standing 5 foot, 8 inches and weighing 105 pounds.  He was last seen wearing black Nike shorts, a long sleeve white Columbia t-shirt with “COLUMBIA” written on the sleeve and navy blue Chaco sandals size 10. He was carrying a new sage green backpack.

The park is asking anyone with information on the pair’s whereabouts to call 928-638-7805.

Email: jwitham@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

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