Families of missing hikers support scaling back search, still 'praying for a miracle'
(KUTV) Five days after Lou Ann Merrell and Jackson Standefer went missing while hiking in Grand Canyon National Park, both families have announced they support the park's decision to scale back search efforts.
Merrell, 62, and Standefer, 14, went missing April 15 after losing their footing and falling into the water during a family trip.
Merrell is Standefer's step-grandmother and wife of Randy Merrell, who helped found the Merrell Boot Co. in 1981.
In the joint statement, the families said they "thank the GCNP staff for their exemplary service."
"We know they have done everything possible since Saturday, April 15, to find Lou Ann and Jackson," they wrote. "We also know countless people were praying for a much different outcome than this one. We felt your prayers and were sustained by them in ways we cannot begin to describe. We are profoundly grateful for the support that continues to pour in from across the country."
According to the Associated Press, the remote area at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, where searchers attempted to find the pair, attracts only about 3,500 backpackers each year.
A family member told the AP Merrell is "a very experienced backpacker," who knows the area well.
"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," Mark McOmie, Standefer's uncle, told the AP. "The odds aren't great. But given their skills and knowledge of the area, that will probably lead to the best possible outcome."
McOmie also said searchers have found their backpacks with belongings inside.