After five days of extensive searching, the National Park Service on Thursday reduced the scale of the search for two hikers who went missing at Grand Canyon National Park on Saturday, April 15. The hikers are identified as LouAnn Merrell, 62, and Jackson Standefer, 14.
Merrell is the wife of Randy Merrell, the co-founder of Merrell Boot Co.
"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 decision to scale back the search," the family said in a statement.
On Saturday evening, the Park Service received an alert from a personal locating beacon in a backcountry area of Grand Canyon National Park near the confluence of Tapeats Creek and Thunder River. An Arizona Department of Public Safety helicopter flew to the location where a hiking party reported two members of their party missing.
The party reported that Merrell and Standefer were last seen crossing Tapeats Creek below the confluence with Thunder River when they lost footing and were swept down Tapeats Creek.
Beginning Sunday morning and continuing to the end of Wednesday, crews searched extensively in both the Tapeats Creek area and the area of the Colorado River below the confluence with Tapeats Creek (approximately Colorado River Mile 134). Three teams (approximately 20 people total) searched ground areas along Tapeats Creek and the Colorado River each day, staying in the field overnight. In order to cover areas that were inaccessible to the ground searchers, each day the Park Service also utilized a helicopter and crew, an unmanned aerial system and operator, and an inflatable motor raft and associated search team.
Arizona Department of Public Safety and Uintah County Search and Rescue (Uintah County Sheriff’s Department) assisted in the search.
On Thursday, the Park Service focused search efforts along the Colorado River below the confluence with Tapeats Creek with a search crew operating an inflatable motor raft. Starting today, the search will continue in a limited and continuous mode focused on public outreach and search efforts during regular backcountry patrols. The NPS will continue to follow up and investigate any new information that it receives.
LouAnn Merrell is described as a 62-year-old female, 5’5”, 145 pounds, with blonde hair and green eyes. She was last seen wearing khaki zip-off shorts, a blue/green button down short-sleeve shirt, and blue water shoes size 8½. 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, 5’8”, 105 pounds, with black hair. 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 Tapeats Creek area is located in a remote backcountry area of Grand Canyon National Park. The area is popular with overnight backpackers in spring and fall.