Merrell offers to assist Grand Canyon search for woman, teen





PHOENIX (AP) - The National Park Service says the search for two missing hikers related to the co-founder of the Merrell Boot Co. is difficult and complex and that it is not requesting any additional resources despite an announcement from the family that it planned on sending its own support.

A spokeswoman said Wednesday that the park service is working closely with the family of 62-year-old LouAnn Merrell and 14-year-old Jackson Standefer and is considering the resources their family has suggested donating.

The family announced late Tuesday night that the Merrell company would be providing climbers and rescuers and that the family of the missing boy was offering a military-grade drone to assist in the search. The Merrell company is owned by Wolverine Worldwide.

LouAnn Merrell, the wife of Randy Merrell, was with her husband, stepgrandson and the boy's mother on a multi-day hike in a remote area of the Grand Canyon on Saturday when she and the boy lost footing and were swept away by water. LouAnn Merrell has been previously referred to as Lou-Ann, which is how she identifies on her Facebook page, but a spokesman for the families of both hikers says it is spelled without a hyphen.

But the intense search for Merrell and Standefer continues, said spokeswoman Robin Martin.

The National Park Service on Wednesday again deployed three ground search teams, a helicopter, a drone and an inflatable motor raft.

Ground search crews have spent the night at the bottom of the canyon for several nights, although their searches only take place in daylight.

Martin said weather has also been about the same as the last few days, with clear and breezy daytime temperatures in the mid-90s and overnight lows in the 50s.

The Grand Canyon is consistently one of the most popular attractions in the United States, drawing nearly 6 million people last year.

But the park's nearly 2,000 square miles, steep cliffs and mesmerizing views have often led to accidents and deaths.

The park service reported over 1,000 medical emergencies, 15 deaths and 318 search and rescue incidents in 2015, the last readily available data.

The remote area where the family was hiking on multi-day backpacking trip is at the bottom of the canyon near the North Rim, a much-less visited area of the park.

Experts like Matthew Nelson, the executive director of the Arizona Trial Association and a former Grand Canyon backpacking guide, say hiking down to the Tapeats Creek area where the two went missing is arduous and requires at least a couple of days and some experience in backpacking.

Nelson said in an Associated Press interview on Tuesday that the creek where Merrell and Standefer went missing can get heavy water flow after the winter, when snow from the North Rim melts and travels down the canyon.

He said that area is particularly hot during the day and doesn't cool off very much because of the geology.

"This is one of the gems of backpacking in the Grand Canyon," Nelson said.

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