The woman who was swept down a remote creek in Grand Canyon National Park on Saturday is the wife of a popular outdoor footwear company founder, leaving her family hoping the 62-year-old has the skills to keep her stepgrandson and herself alive until they're found. Lou-Ann Merrell, wife of Randy Merrell—who helped found the Merrell Boot Co. in 1981 and was also on the trip—and Jackson Standefer, 14, lost their footing during a family trip in the Arizona park and fell into Tapeats Creek, a tributary of the Colorado River. Mark McOmie, Jackson's uncle, tells the AP 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. McOmie, who was not on the trip, says the Merrells are avid hikers and know the North Rim area, which only 10% of Grand Canyon visitors go to, well.
Lou-Ann Merrell is "a very experienced backpacker," McOmie says. "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." But "the odds aren't great," he adds. McOmie says searchers have found the pair's backpacks with belongings inside, which the family has interpreted with mixed feelings: It looks as if they were able to get their backpacks off, but "they don't have their gear," McOmie says. The park service still hasn't determined what went wrong. The Merrells live in Utah; Jackson is an eighth-grade student at the all-boys McCallie School in Chattanooga, Tenn. The search resumed Tuesday and includes three ground teams plus a helicopter, drone, and a motorized boat. Officials were alerted when an emergency GPS locator beacon was set off below the canyon's North Rim, says a National Park Service rep.