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Grand Canyon National Park Rangers Recover Bodies of Two Young Drowning Victims


The bodies of two young men who disappeared into the Colorado River after jumping in near the Black Bridge upstream of Phantom Ranch have been recovered.

The bodies of two young men who disappeared after jumping into the Colorado River near Phantom Ranch in the bottom of Grand Canyon National Park have been recovered.

The bodies were found Thursday afternoon. The first was located and secured by a private boating party; the second was located and secured by Hatch River Expeditions, a commercial river operator. Both groups called the Grand Canyon Regional Communications Center, via satellite phone, with reports.

Park rangers responded by helicopter to retrieve the bodies. After separate field investigations, the bodies were flown to the South Rim Helibase, then transferred to the Coconino County Medical Examiner and transported to Flagstaff, Arizona.

The first body was located shortly after noon between Crystal Rapid and Camp Beach near River Mile 98, and was flown out Thursday afternoon. The second body was located late Thursday afternoon at Agate Rapid at approximately River Mile 100.5, and flown out Friday morning.

The young men have been presumptively identified as 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 river near River Mile 88 on April 30. Mark Merrill’s body was located on May 1, approximately 1 mile down river from where the young men were last.

The young men had been part of a group that was on a day hike from the South Rim to Phantom Ranch. 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, as well as enlisting the assistance of commercial and private boaters as well as hikers in the area.

The National Park Service appreciates the efforts of the Department of Public Safety, Coconino County Sheriff’s Office, the commercial and private boating community, Grand Canyon hikers, and volunteers who provided assistance with search efforts. They would also like to thank 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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