Search For Missing Grand Canyon Hikers Continues, Family Reacts To Tragedy As Their Backpacks Have Been Found

The search for the two missing hikers at the Grand Canyon continues as family reacts to the tragedy with hope that the two are still alive.

Jackson Standefer and his 62-year-old step-grandmother were swept away in a remote creek at the Grand Canyon National Park on Saturday. 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.

Lou-Ann Merrell, wife of Randy Merrell — who founded the Merrell Boot Co. back in 1981 — and her 14-year-old step-grandson lost their food while they were on a family trip on Saturday at the Arizona park, causing them to fall into a creek. According to Chicago Tribune, Mark McOmie, Jackson’s uncle, said the creek water was roaring down through the rocks. So, the family is hopeful the two missing Grand Canyon hikers could be found on a boulder or in a cave.

Grand Canyon officials were alerted regarding the incident when an emergency GPS locator beacon was set off just below the canyon’s North Rim. Officials resumed the search for the two missing Grand Canyon hikers. The search includes three ground teams in addition to a drone, a helicopter, and a motorized boat. They are searching all of the banks along the Colorado River with the hopes of finding the missing hikers.

The three ground teams searching for the missing hikers consists of roughly 20 people who remained in the canyon overnight to continue the search. McOmie was not on the trip, but he revealed that Lou-Ann Merrell and her husband – who was also on the trip – were avid hikers who knew the area extremely well.

“Lou-Ann Merrell is a very experienced backpacker. 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 odds aren’t great. But given their skills and knowledge of the area, that will probably lead to the best possible outcome.”

McOmie revealed the searchers have located the backpacks the two missing hikers had when they were swept away by the water. The backpacks still had their belongings inside. This discovery has caused the family to react with mixed feelings. It was relieving that they were able to get their backpacks off after being swept away by the water. However, it also meant they were missing in the Grand Canyon without their gear. If they were still alive, they no longer had their backpacks containing what they needed to survive.

Lou-Ann Merrell, her husband, Jackson Standefer, and his mother were hiking on the Tapeats Trail when the grandmother and grandson fell.

At this point in time, the park service is not really sure what went wrong. There had not been any rain or flash flooding reported in the area where the missing hikers fell. It also is not known whether the water level in the Tapeats Creek was higher than normal at the time. Creeks in this area tend to only see water levels that are higher than normal after it rains or in the spring when the snow is melting.

The park does warn its guests that melting snow and heavy rain can make it possible for hikers to cross the creeks in the Grand Canyon. The North Rim area in particular is only visited by roughly 10 percent of all hikers who come to explore Grand Canyon. This is because it has rapidly changing weather. The park encourages hikers to prepare for heat, cold, rain, wind, and snow.

Snapshot of the Grand Canyon from an airplane view.
The Grand Canyon [Image by Anton_Ivanov/ShutterStock]

Jackson is an eight-grade student at an all-boys school called McCallie School located in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The school released a statement sending prayers to Jackson and all of those close to him, hoping for a positive end to this tragedy.

“The entire McCallie community sends its prayers to the Standefer family and all those close to Jackson as we all hope for a positive ending to this situation.”

The intense search continues with the hopes of finding the two missing Grand Canyon hikers alive.

[Featured Image by Dudarev Mikhail/Shutterstock]