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No Sign Of Missing Hiker In Grand Canyon National Park, Search Being Scaled Back


Ground crews were assisted by aerial searchers during the hunt for a missing hiker in the Grand Canyon. NPS photo.

A lack of clues in the search for a missing hiker in Grand Canyon National Park has prompted a decision to begin scaling back the effort.

While rangers will on occasion continue to look for Robert A. Williams with dogs near cliff areas, aerial efforts and more intensive ground searches will end. Mr. Williams, 69, of Surprise, Arizona, was reported missing by his family after failing to return from a Memorial Day Weekend trip to the Grand Canyon.

While rangers were able to narrow their search to the Hermit Basin area west of Grand Canyon Village on the South Rim, an extensive search by helicopter, ground searchers, and a dog team yielded no clues as to Mr. Williams’ whereabouts. The decision to scale back the active search was based on the totality of circumstances including the rugged and steep terrain, the length of time that Mr. Williams has been missing (he was last seen on Saturday, May 23), and the number of hikers and searchers that have passed through the area without finding any indications as to Mr. Williams whereabouts.

Mr. Williams' daughter, Lisa Clarke, said her family “wanted to thank those people who saw the initial news release about the search for my father and took the time to call in and share some very helpful information.”


While every accident in the parks or elsewhere is tragic for the victims and their family and friends, and sometimes it is possible to learn something from accidents, I believe they got way too much coverage here on the Traveler recently. Individual accidents are not of general interest, they only cater to sensationalistic interests. Of course these kinds of posts are very easy to produce. Just read the Morning Report and look for press releases on the website of the relevant park. No further work necessary.

I would prefer to have at most one accident related article per month. I would prefer the name and all personal information of the victim to be hold back, we don't need that. And I would prefer the posts to have an angle concentrating on safety in the parks, from the point of view of interested visitors, not on the gory details aimed at Yellow press readers.

MRC, I would disagree that posts on accidents in the park are sensationalism. There is indeed high interest in them, and some of that comes from family and friends who are keenly interested in the fate of their loved ones and who can't get information elsewhere.

I also haven't seen any "gory details," as you refer to them, in posts on these accidents. As for safety in the parks, we've devoted an entire feature to that issue, and kept it up longer than usual with hopes more folks will read it.

Well, MRC, that was about the most cold-hearted post I've ever seen...glad I'm not related to you. I was a feature writer/journalist for many years and those "personal details" you seem to abhor make people human to readers, make people care about them and everybody needs someone to care about them. How do you think that man's family feels after reading your post--oh well, too bad, bye, gramps. Anyone who travels our national parks--and my husband and I love them--is concerned about what could happen to them and what happens to others and it has nothing to do with sensationalism. It has to do with empathy. Kurt is right, there are no gory details given here--this is not tabloid stuff. But it IS news and the more people know about someone who is missing, the better.. Now, if you wish, if you go out on an outing and vanish somehow I'll make sure not to give it a second thought. As for the others--I'm going to hope and pray and think about them.

My goodness, MRC, is your nickname Ostrich? The National Parks Traveler is in no way sensationalism reporting; it is factual. And, yes, we do need to know of things that can and do happen in national parks. There has been a rather startling amount of bad news items in a short period of time, but this is life - the real thing. And I should think the majority of us reading the parks' news are compassionate caring people, which is why we are reading this website to begin with.

Dear Lynn, if my comment is the "most cold-hearted thing you've ever seen ..." then you must live a very sheltered life. Now I've proven, that I too can play the game of ad hominem criticism. But I prefer not to. And as if I don't know that today's journalism revolves around personalizing every story. But maybe that's what's wrong with it nowadays. By digging into the personal details, journalism neglects to build the big picture. By breaking stories down to sound bites and effect, connections and context don't get their share of reporting.

Back to the Traveler: The concentration on accidents is a pretty recent development here. 20 stories on accidents in May 2009 versus 6 in May 2008 - true, the total number went up too, but the rise is notable. And I believe those stories lack relevancy. Kurt, are you happy with writing about accidents so much? Is this what you intend with this blog?

The families gains nothing from knowing that the name of their beloved one will be forever connected in the global media archives with an unfortunate accident, and those who wish to pray for the safety of a missing person can do so for "the missing hiker in Grand Canyon". God does not need name, profession, hometown and age of the missing.

Actually MRC there's a lot to learn from accidents. Hiking the canyon is a little more than a walk around a suburban neighborhood, yet every day numerous people don't prepare adequately. Sorry that personalizing the story rubs you the wrong way, but if you don't know the poor soul then I fail to see how knowing his name, age, hometown, etc does YOU any harm. Rather than the multitude of impersonal warnings throughtout GCNP which routinely go unheeded, perhaps one report of such can help prevent those who don't yet fully realize the natural hazards abound.

"I would prefer to have at most one accident related article per month."

Gee MRC, I'd prefer not to have any at all...somehow it just never works out that way. Sorry people can't arrange their fate to fit the convenience of your schedule.

I am reminded of the preface to the book Off the Wall: Death in Yosemite. The author of the preface said something like, "this isn't a book about death; it's a book about life." His point was that we learn from the mistakes of others. Recounting the tragedies that occur in national parks makes the readers of those accounts more thoughtful, careful visitors. As a former ranger, I am all in favor of that.

Rick Smith

As a frequent visitor to many National Parks, I appreciate these articles. If I see an article like this for an area I may soon be visiting and I know someone is missing, then I will keep an eye out and pay much closer attention for any signs or clues while out hiking. In addition, articles like this make me double check my plans and make sure I am fully prepared.


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