Body found in Grand Canyon ID’d as missing Tennessee boy

Courtesy: Mark McOmie

GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK, Ariz. (AP) — A body found last week has been identified as that of a 14-year-old hiker who went missing nearly two weeks ago while hiking a remote part of the Grand Canyon during a family trip, authorities said Monday.

Jackson Standefer, of Chattanooga, Tennessee, was crossing a creek on April 15 when he and his step-grandmother, LouAnn Merrell, lost their footing and were swept away.

The cause and manner of death for Jackson Standefer is pending, said Trish Lees, a spokeswoman for the Coconino County Medical Examiner’s Office.

Merrell, the wife of Merrell Boot Co. co-founder Randy Merrell, is still missing.

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(Courtesy: The McCallie School)

Park rangers spent days searching with a helicopter, ground crews, drones and a motorized inflatable boat before the search was scaled back.

A body believed to be Standefer’s was found last Friday by a commercial river trip and transported by helicopter to the medical examiner’s office.

Standefer was an eighth-grade student at The McCallie School, an all-boys boarding institution in Chattanooga. The teen was active in outdoors programs, crew team and a youth Christian group, school officials have said.

Mark McOmie, Standefer’s uncle who is a dentist in Chattanooga, said he was asked by the Coconino County Medical Examiner’s Office to send Standefer’s dental records to them Monday morning, and he heard the identification was made within hours.

“It’s over. We’re no longer looking for Jackson. We have the body,” McOmie said, adding that he didn’t immediately know of funeral plans.

“We had a celebration of life for him last week in Chattanooga. An hour and 15 minutes. And it was awesome,” added McOmie, who described his nephew as a well-loved boy who was always smiling.

Standefer and his step-grandmother, who is from Utah, went missing during a hike from the North Rim of the Grand Canyon to an area known as Tapeats Creek.

They were on a trip with Standefer’s mother and Randy Merrell.

Tapeats Creek is in a remote area of the Grand Canyon.

Experienced hikers say the trail that the group took involves an arduous hike down the canyon that ends in stunning, unique views.