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RRFW Riverwire – Two Bodies Recovered From Colorado River In Grand Canyon
May 16, 2009

The bodies of two young men were recovered from the Colorado River within Grand Canyon National Park Thursday afternoon, May 14, 2009. The first was encountered and secured by a noncommercial river trip while the second was located and secured by Hatch River Expeditions, a commercial river tour company. Both groups called the Grand Canyon Regional Communications Center, via satellite phone.

The first body was located shortly after noon Thursday near River Mile 98, and was flown out Thursday afternoon. The second body was located late Thursday afternoon at approximately River Mile 100.5, and flown out of the Canyon Friday morning.

It is presumed that the bodies are 16 year-old Saif Savaya, and 22 year-old Joey Merrill. The two young men, along with 16 year-old Mark Merrill, drowned after attempting to swim across the Colorado River just downstream of the Black Bridge near River Mile 88 on April 30. Mark Merrill’s body was located on May 1, approximately 1 mile down river from where the three young men were last seen entering the water.

The day hikers were part of a group hiking from the South Rim to Phantom Ranch on the South Kaibab Trail. The National Park Service conducted an extensive two-day search following reports of their disappearance. Search efforts included air operations, boat patrols, and ground searches that included a search dog and its handler. Extended search efforts included boat and foot patrols, and enlisted the assistance of public and concessionaire river trips and hikers in the area.

According to Dr. Tom Myers, author of Over The Edge, Death in Grand Canyon, eight hikers have died entering the river near the Black Bridge, while eleven people have perished in the Colorado River at Pipe Creek. Dr. Myers notes that outside of air-tours, these are the two most dangerous spots on the river and in all of Grand Canyon. It is typical for bodies lost to the cold waters of the Colorado River to resurface after approximately ten to twelve days.

In a statement, the National Park Service recognized with appreciation the efforts of the Department of Public Safety, Coconino County Sheriff’s Office, the entire river running community, Grand Canyon hikers, and volunteers who provided assistance with search efforts. Grand Canyon National Park also thanked Xanterra South Rim, LLC, Delaware North Park Services (Canyon Village Market Place), and local clergy, for their support to the families of these young men.

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