Rescue teams are continuing to search for the wife, 62, of the Merrell Boots founder and her 14-year-old step-grandson who were swept away while crossing a Grand Canyon river.
Lou-Ann Merrell, wife of Randy Merrell, 66, who helped found the popular footwear brand in 1981, and Jackson Standefer, 14, slipped into the Tapeats Creek, in the Arizona park on Saturday.
Neither Merrell nor Standefer, of Tennessee, has been seen since although family are holding out hope that the 62-year-old has the outdoor skills to keep them both alive until they’re found.
Lou-Ann Merrell (left) and her step-grandson Jackson Standefer, 14, (right) slipped into the Tapeats Creek, in the Arizona park on Saturday
Lou-Ann is the wife of Merrell Boots founder Randy Merrell (pictured) who helped found the popular footwear brand in 1981, and Jackson is her step-grandson
Rescue crews have been scouring the Grand Canyon National Park since the pair were swept away Saturday in Tapeats Creek, a tributary of the Colorado River that runs through the Arizona landmark.
Lou-Ann had been hiking with her husband Randy, their daughter-in-law Julie Standefer – who is married to their son Karstan Merrell – as well as Julie’s son Jackson Standefer, when the tragedy occurred, according to other family members.
Randy and Julie were able to alert officials by setting off an emergency GPS locator beacon in the backcountry below the canyon’s North Rim, according to Chief Ranger Matt Vandzura of the National Park Service.
The National Park Service deployed a drone, helicopter and dozens of rescuers to help find the missing pair but to no avail.
Standefer’s uncle Mark McOmie told the Denver Post that both Lou-Ann and her husband Randy Merrell are keen hikers and know the area well.
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.’
Family members said that rescue teams discovered Merrell and her step-grandson’s backpacks with their belongings still inside.
Treacherous: The missing hikers were trying to cross Tapeats Creek in Grand Canyon National Park on Saturday when they lost their footing and were swept away by water
While that means the pair won’t have any food or supplies, search teams say there were indications that they had been able to take their backpacks off after they fell into the river.
Search teams will continue their efforts overnight as the National Park Service try to determine exactly what went wrong.
Chief Ranger Matt Vandzura said that no rain or flash flooding was reported in the area, but it was not known whether the water level of the creek was higher than usual.
Creeks in the canyon often see higher water levels in the spring as snow melts, Vandzura said.
The Park Service describes conditions in the area on its website, warning that melting snow or heavy rain may make crossing the creek impossible.
It also said hikers can use a ‘sketchy, seldom used trail’ that lets them walk around the creek when the water is high, but that the path should be used only as a last resort.
Vandzura said the four hikers, among them Standefer, his mother and his step-grandmother and grandfather, were on a different trail that crosses the creek.
Tapeats Creek is a tributary of the Colorado River, located in a remote part of the park
An Arizona Department of Public Safety helicopter began searching for the missing pair Saturday night, and the Park Service sent a helicopter and several ground crews to comb the area Sunday and Monday.
McOmie revealed on Facebook that drones were being deployed the steepest and most treacherous part of the canyon, and a team of rescuers in a zodiac boat were on the Colorado River searching for the missing pair.
‘The outlook is not promising, but there is still a glimmer of hope,’ McOmie wrote on Monday. ‘We will hold on to this hope until there is reason not to. Please keep praying.’
Standefer, standing at 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighing 105lbs, with black hair, was last seen wearing black Nike shorts, a white long-sleeved Columbia T-shirt, and navy blue Chaco sandals and carrying a light green backpack.
The boy lives with his family in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where he is an eighth-grader at MacCallie Middle 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.
Standefer is an eighth-grader at The MacCallie School in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The boy is 5-foot-10 and weighing 105lbs, with black hair
Lou-Ann Merrell is described as 5-feet-5 with blonde hair and green eyes. She was last seen wearing khaki zip-off shorts, a blue-green button-down shirt with short sleeves and blue water sports shoes.
She lives with her husband in their $190,000 horse ranch near Vernal, in northeastern Utah.
The Merrell name is famous worldwide thanks to the international success of the Merrell Boot company that Randy helped found with John Schweitzer and Clark Matis in 1981.
But just five years later, he decided the corporate life was not for him and sold his shares to set up his own, small, custom-boot making firm near home – Merrell Foot Labs.
He relished returning to a much smaller scale and spent years turning out just one or two pairs of boots every week. As more and more of his customers came to him wanting custom boots to solve their individual issues, Randy Merrell decided to specialize in custom orthotics.
Merrell Foot Labs has had some success as a small family business, based in a remote Utah town, but Merrell said that ‘money has never been the goal.’
“The goal for Lou-Ann and me is to run our own business — not to let our business run us,’ he told TrailSpace in 2010.
Meanwhile, his former company that still bares this name has gone from strength to strength. In 1997, Merrell Boots was bought by shoe industry giant Wolverine World Wide and in 2010 the firm recorded total sales of nearly $500 million.
In 2014, parent company Wolverine recorded 2.76 billion in revenue, according to its annual report.
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