UPDATE: NPS confirms body as missing McCallie student - WSMV News 4

UPDATE: NPS confirms body as missing McCallie student

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Jackson Standefer and his step-grandmother, Lou-Ann Merrell. Family photos Jackson Standefer and his step-grandmother, Lou-Ann Merrell. Family photos
Jackson Standefer in a family photo Jackson Standefer in a family photo
Jackson Standefer in a family photo Jackson Standefer in a family photo

UPDATE: The National Park Service tells Channel 3 that the body found on Friday in the Colorado River is McCallie student, Jackson Standefer.

The body was found near river mile 152 and flown by helicopter to the Coconino County Medical Examiner for identification.

Fourteen-year-old Standefer was hiking with family near the Borth Rim of the Grand Canyon when he and his step-grandfmother, 62-year-old LouAnn Merrell, were swept down Tapeats Creek in the Canyon.


PREVIOUS STORY: The National Park Service says the body of missing McCallie student, Jackson Standefer, was possibly found Friday in the Colorado River.

Park officials say the body was found at river mile 152 and flown by helicopter to the Coconino County Medical Examiner.

Initial information shows the body is that of 14-year-old Jackson Standefer, who was reported missing along with his step-grandmother, 62-year-old LouAnn Merrell, on April 15.

The teen and his step-grandmother were swept away as they attempted to cross Tapeats Creek with other family members while hiking at the Grand Canyon.

Merrell is still missing. 

The medical examiner is working to determine the exact identification of the body.

The National Park Service is investigating the incident.

Stay with WRCBtv.com for updates to this story.


PREVIOUS STORY: A celebration of life is planned for the McCallie student who was swept down a creek in the Grand Canyon.

Family members of 14-year-old Jackson Standefer said it will be this Wednesday at McCallie's main chapel at 7 p.m.

Relatives also said there were services in Vernal, Utah on Sunday for Jackson's step-grandmother, LouAnn Merrell, who was with him. 

Jackson's uncle, Mark McOmie, posted on Facebook on Sunday:   

"We as a family appreciate the National Park Services efforts in the search. The search consists of community outreach and routine back country patrols at this time. We pray they find something to help us gain closure, we remain hopeful. We would like to thank the National Park Service for their diligent search efforts.

All family members are back in Chattanooga, TN or Vernal, Ut respectively. LouAnn Merrell's services are this evening Sunday April 23 in Vernal Utah.

A celebration of life for Jackson Standefer will be held at the McCallie School in Chattanooga, Tennessee. On Wednesday April 26th at 7:00 pm. in the main chapel.

We have been amazed at the tremendous outpouring of love from our community. It truly helps at this the most difficult of times."

McOmie said a fund has been set up at the McCallie School in Jackson's honor called The Jackson Standefer '21 Fund.

All gifts to the fund should be sent to:

The McCallie School
Advancement Office
500 Dodds Avenue
Chattanooga, TN 37404

Checks should be made out to McCallie School with the Jackson Standefer Fund on the memo line.


UPDATE: Search crews looking for a missing McCallie student and his step-grandmother in the Grand Canyon found a GoPro camera.

14-year-old Jackson Standefer's uncle said the camera was mounted on Jackson's backpack. Search crews found it earlier this week.

The teen's uncle shared some of the recovered pictures from Jackson's camera.

Grand Canyon National Park officials recently scaled back the search for Jackson and his step-grandmother, Lou Ann Merrell, who were swept down a creek below the North Rim.

They were last seen a week ago.


UPDATE: A news release from the National Park Service Thursday afternoon says their search for the two missing hikers, identified as Lou Ann Merrell, 62, and Jackson Standefer, 14, has been reduced in scale.

The NPS says teams have 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 NPS also utilized a helicopter and crew, an unmanned aerial system (UAS) and operator, and an inflatable motor raft and associated search team.

Thursday, the NPS says they will focus search efforts along the Colorado River below the confluence with Tapeats Creek with a search crew operating an inflatable motor raft.

If no additional information is discovered or received today, starting on 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 NPS will continue to follow up and investigate any new information that it receives.


PREVIOUS STORY: Earlier Thursday, family members indicated the search had been called off the multiple-day search for a McCallie student and his step-grandmother. The two hikers were swept away in a fast-moving stream near the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.

The statement also says the families are thankful for the efforts of those involved.

The full statement reads:

"Wednesday evening, the National Park Service announced that they were calling off the search for Jackson Standefer and LouAnn Merrell, who have been missing in the Grand Canyon since Saturday evening. The families would like to thank everyone for their tremendous outpouring of love, prayers and support throughout this tragic ordeal. Please respect both families' need for privacy as they come to process and seek God's comfort during this difficult time. We believe families are forever and we will be reunited with our loved ones."


PREVIOUS STORY: Four days after a seasoned backpacker from Vernal and her stepgrandson were swept into a rushing creek in Grand Canyon backcountry, crews were combing crags and banks of the Colorado River for signs of the missing pair Tuesday, according to NBC affiliate KSL in Salt Lake City.

The National Park Service said it was directing "an intense search" for the two, who went missing Saturday.

READ MORE | Merrell Company, families aid in search for missing McCallie student

The rescue team included neighbors and former colleagues of Lou-Ann Merrell, 62, a 10-year volunteer emergency medical technician and the wife of Merrell Boot Co. founder Randy Merrell. The couple lives in Vernal, Utah.

Her husband and son, Ivan, were also on the trip, said Jake Phillips, a friend and relative of Lou-Ann Merrell.

"Considering everything, their spirits are still high," Phillips said Tuesday. "Just hoping for a miracle to come along, that they will be found alive and in good condition.

READ MORE | Family of missing McCallie student had device that alerted rescue crews

Phillips said the Merrells have helped create a strong community in the Uinta Basin, at times pitching in to cover funeral costs for families who could not afford a ceremony to honor lost loved ones.

Phillips said the search has drawn "a love outpour from our community."


PREVIOUS STORY: Three search and rescue crews spent the night in the Grand Canyon Tuesday, to begin the search for a woman and her stepgrandson, a McCallie student.

The two were swept down a remote creek in the northwest section of Grand Canyon National Park, but the family is holding out hope that the 62-year-old wife of a popular outdoor footwear company founder has the skills to keep them both alive until they're found, a family member said. 

Lou-Ann Merrell, wife of Randy Merrell - who helped found the Merrell Boot Co. in 1981 - and Jackson Standefer, 14, lost their footing Saturday during a family trip in the Arizona park and fell into the creek. Mark McOmie, Jackson's uncle, said the water roars down through rocks, so the family is hoping the two could be on a boulder or have found a cave for shelter.

Officials were alerted when an emergency GPS locator beacon was set off below the canyon's North Rim, said Chief Ranger Matt Vandzura of the National Park Service. 

The National Park Service deployed a drone, helicopter and dozens of rescuers in an effort to find the pair. The drone footage must be analyzed for clues.

McOmie, who was not on the trip, said the Merrells are avid hikers and know the area well. He said Lou-Ann and Randy Merrell, who was also on the trip, live in Utah in a city on the eastern side of the state.

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 odds aren't great. But given their skills and knowledge of the area, that will probably lead to the best possible outcome."

McOmie said searchers have found their backpacks with belongings inside, which the family has interpreted with mixed feelings. He said it looks as if they were able to get their backpacks off.

"The bad part is that they don't have their gear," McOmie said.

The National Park Service said some searchers will stay in the field overnight, but may not actively search depending on conditions.

The Merrells, Standefer and the boy's mother were on a path known as Tapeats Trail when the pair fell, authorities said.

The park service said it's too early to determine what went wrong. No rain or flash flooding was reported in the area, and it was not known whether the water level was higher than usual in Tapeats Creek, a tributary of the Colorado River that runs through the Arizona landmark.

Creeks in the canyon often see higher water levels in the spring as snow melts.

The park service describes conditions in the area on its website, warning that melting snow or heavy rain can make crossing the creek impossible.

The North Rim, an area visited only by 10 percent of Grand Canyon visitors, has rapidly changing weather and visitors should be prepared for heat, cold, rain, wind or snow, the park service says.

The McCallie School in Chattanooga, Tennessee, said Jackson is an eighth-grade student at the all-boys school.

"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 school said in a statement.

A call to Merrell Footlab in Vernal, Utah, for comment on the search wasn't immediately returned Monday evening.


PREVIOUS STORY: Search efforts for a missing McCallie student and his step-grandmother have expanded to include a boat and a drone.

Chief Ranger at the Grand Canyon National Park, Matt Vandzura, said the drone will be used to get to some of the more remote areas.

He described some of the terrain near Tapeats Creek where the hikers were last seen on Saturday.

"The land on either side varies from flat, sandy, relatively level areas to steep-sided, inaccessible gorges," Chief Ranger Matt Vandzura said.

Officials with the National Park Service said the two hikers were crossing the creek when they lost their footing and were swept away.

One is a 14-year-old boy and the other is a 62-year-old woman. Family members identified them as Jackson Standefer and his step-grandmother.

Jackson's mother and his step-grandfather were also hiking with them.

They used what's called a personal locator beacon, which alerts search and rescue resources. Family members can also be notified when it's activated.

Nearly two dozen people are searching for the teen and his step-grandmother in the Grand Canyon National Park. This is the third day crews have been looking for them. 

Standefer's uncle, Mark McOmie, wrote the following public Facebook post:

"The outlook is not promising, but there is still a glimmer of hope. We will hold on to this hope until there is reason not to. Please keep praying."

Vandzura said the group of hikers are experienced. Officials with the Grand Canyon National Park said they conduct more than 200 search and rescue missions a year, but this case is different.

"The bulk of our search and rescue missions, we know where the patient, the person is. Truly searching for people is relatively rare," Vandzura said.

Standefer is an 8th grade student at The McCallie School. McCallie's Deputy Director of Communications and Marketing, Jim Tanner, released the following statement to Channel 3 on Monday:

"As has been reported by several media outlets, McCallie eighth-grader Jackson Standefer has been missing in the Grand Canyon since late Saturday on a family trip.  

Jackson and his step-grandmother were swept downstream while attempting to cross a river Saturday afternoon. Rescue efforts began quickly and are ongoing. The family remains hopeful that rescuers will find Jackson and his step-grandmother and return them safely to their families.

This morning, students were told about the situation involving Jackson and the ongoing rescue operations and hopes for rescue. The boys have been offered help if they need it as they process this situation.

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. Out of respect for the family, McCallie will not be making faculty or students available for further comment at this time."

Stay with WRCBtv.com for more details on this developing story. 


UPDATE: The family of Jackson Standefer released the following statement Monday:

Last night at 9 pm local time and 12 EST the search and rescue met with the families. There is nothing new to report. Search and rescue logged 300 man hours yesterday in the search. Rescuers were in the canyon searching all night. They are sending in drones at 7am to scour the wall of the slot canyon they think they could be in. The out look is not promising but there is still a glimmer of hope. We will hold on to this hope until there is reason not to. Please keep praying.

The National Park Service reports a search and rescue operation is underway in the backcountry area of Grand Canyon National Park for two missing people. The search resumed Monday morning using manned helicopters and drones.

One of those missing is McCallie student Jackson Standefer. He is an 8th grade student.

An Arizona Department of Public Safety helicopter flew to the location Saturday where a hiking party reported two members of their party missing after the National 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.

The first hiker is described as a 62-year-old female, 5’5”, 145 lbs, 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 8 ½.  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 lbs 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. 

National Park Service crews were flown to the scene Sunday morning and are searching the Tapeats Creek area. Backcountry hiking groups and Colorado River trips in the area have also been alerted.

The National Park Service describes the area of the park as very popular among visitors to the Grand Canyon.

Backpacker Magazine says the Thunder River-Deer Creek Loop could "very well be the toughest long-weekend hike in Grand Canyon National Park."


PREVIOUS STORY: A McCallie student has been reported lost in the Grand Canyon.

Officials with the National Park Service at the Grand Canyon said crews started searching for the student in the backcountry area of the park on Saturday.

McCallie's Deputy Director of Communications and Marketing, Jim Tanner, released the following statement to Channel 3:

"We are aware of the ongoing situation involving Jackson Standefer, and the entire McCallie community is praying for the best. Beyond that, we have no comment until we have a better understanding of the situation."

Stay with WRCBtv.com for more details on this developing story.

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