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This Sunday, April 16, 2017, photo provided by the National Park Service shows Tapeats Creek in Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona. Authorities are searching for Jackson Standefer, 14, and Lou-Ann Merrell, 62, after the pair lost their footing Saturday and fell into the water during a family trip in a remote area of the Arizona park. (National Park Service via AP)

This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Jackson Standefer's name.

Statement from the Standefer and Merrell families

The families of Jackson Standefer and LouAnn Merrell have asked McCallie School to release the following statement Tuesday evening, April 18, 2017, as an update on the ongoing search in the Grand Canyon for McCallie School eighth-grader Jackson Standefer and LouAnn Merrell:

We would like to thank everyone from around the world who have offered encouragement, support and prayers during this difficult time as we continue to search for Jackson Standefer and LouAnn Merrell. The search for Jackson and LouAnn continues, and the overwhelming support has helped us remain positive throughout this process.

The National Park Service has been working around the clock on rescue efforts since the beginning of this ordeal, and the Standefer and Merrell families are grateful for their tireless dedication, hard work and support.

In an effort to bolster the existing search efforts, the Merrell shoe company has been working over the past several hours to provide climbers and rescuers to continue the search. These volunteers will help speed the search efforts, and we are grateful for their assistance.

In addition, the Standefer family is flying in specialists from Chattanooga-based Skytec Aerial Data Specialists with a Sky Ranger military-grade drone equipped with extra capabilities to aid in the search. We remain hopeful that these efforts will help us find Jackson Standefer and LouAnn Merrell very soon.

Thank you as always for respecting the family's need for privacy as we work through this difficult time. Your continued love, prayer and support are greatly appreciated.

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This undated photo released by the McCallie School in Chattanooga, Tenn., on Tuesday, April 18, 2017 shows Jackson Standefer. On Saturday, April 15, 2017, Standefer, 14, and his step-grandmother, Lou-Ann Merrell, were swept down a remote creek in Grand Canyon National Park in Grand Canyon National Park. The family is holding out hope that the 62-year-old wife of a popular outdoor footwear company founder has the skills to keep them both alive until they're found, a family member said. (McCallie School, Chattanooga via AP)
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UPDATE: 

The National Park Service says the search for two missing hikers related to the co-founder of the Merrell Boot Co. is difficult and complex and that it is not requesting any additional resources at the time.

A spokeswoman says the park service is working closely with the family of 62-year-old Lou-Ann Merrell and 14-year-old Jackson Standefer and considering the resources their family has suggested donating.

The family announced late Tuesday night that the Merrell company would be providing climbers, rescuers and a military-grade drone to assist in the search.

 

PREVIOUS STORY:

A relative of two hikers missing in the Grand Canyon since last weekend says the Merrell Boot Co. is donating search resources to find Lou-Ann Merrell and her 14-year-old stepgrandson, Jackson Standefer.

She is the wife of company co-founder Randy Merrell. Standefer is an eighth-grader at McCallie School.

The boy's uncle, Mark McOmie, says the company is providing climbers, rescuers and a military grade drone.

Jim Suddath, middle school chaplain at the McCallie School, said faculty and students are praying and holding on to hope for Standefer.

"The school has been keeping up with the reports that have come out, and we have prayed a lot," Suddath said Wednesday afternoon.

"We know that a lot of effort is being put forth by many different agencies for him and his step-grandmother."

The hikers were swept away Saturday in a creek after losing their footing in a remote part of the national park.

The National Park Service has deployed a helicopter, drone, inflatable motor boat and about 20 search and rescue personnel.

McOmie said late Tuesday night that relatives hope Merrell and the boy will be found soon.

Randy Merrell and the boy's mother were hiking with them when they disappeared.

 

PREVIOUS STORY:

The remote area at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, where searchers are trying to find a missing woman and a teenager, attracts only about 3,500 backpackers each year, according to the National Park Service.

Tapeats Creek, where Lou-Ann Merrell and Jackson Standefer lost their footing Saturday during a family trip, is not particularly difficult to hike, said Chris Forsyth, president of the Grand Canyon Hikers & Backpackers Association board. But heavy water flowing through the creek can make it challenging, he said.

Standefer is an eighth-grader at McCallie School, and Merrell is the wife of Randy Merrell, who helped found the Merrell Boot Co.

The area has a more distinct geology than most of the park and attracts a fair number of visitors but is not as popular with tourists as are other spots, like Havasupai Falls. Still, Forsyth, who said he has hiked that area five times, said a visit there calls for a multiple-day backpacking trip and at least some experience in hiking. He said his first trip through the canyon was at Tapeats Creek.

"The rock that forms the canyon at Tapeats Creek is a particular layer that isn't found everywhere in the Grand Canyon. It gives it a more unique sense of beauty," Forsyth said.

An intense search for Merrell and 14-year-old Standefer continued Tuesday, National Park Service spokeswoman Robin Martin said.

The search includes three ground teams consisting of about 20 people total, a National Park Service helicopter, a drone and an inflatable motor raft that was flown into the canyon. Search crews are looking within a mile and a mile and half of where the hikers were last seen, as well as where the creek meets the Colorado River.

"We're really just looking in the water and areas where someone maybe would have been able to get out," Martin said.

Martin said about 3,500 people got permits in 2015 to camp in the general area where the two hikers went missing, the latest readily available data. About 41,000 total people that year got permits to backpack in the Grand Canyon in total.

Mark McOmie, the boy's uncle who lives in Chattanooga, said the Merrells are avid hikers and know the area well. He said Lou-Ann and Randy Merrell, who was also on the trip, live in Vernal, a city in eastern Utah. McOmie was not on the trip.

Lou-Ann Merrell is "a very experienced backpacker," McOmie said. "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. The odds aren't great."

McOmie said searchers have found their backpacks with belongings inside, which the family has interpreted with mixed feelings. He said it looks as if they were able to get their backpacks off.

"The bad part is that they don't have their gear," McOmie said.

The Merrells, Standefer and the boy's mother were on a path known as Tapeats Trail when the pair fell, authorities said.

The park service said it's too early to determine what went wrong. No rain or flash flooding was reported in the area, and it was not known whether the water level was higher than usual in Tapeats Creek, a tributary of the Colorado River that runs through the Arizona landmark.

Creeks in the canyon often see higher water levels in the spring as snow melts. Forsyth said that he hasn't visited Tapeats Creek this year but has been to other parts of the park, where he's noticed more water than usual, he said.

The park service describes conditions in the area on its website, warning that melting snow or heavy rain can make crossing the creek impossible.

The North Rim, an area visited only by 10 percent of Grand Canyon visitors, has rapidly changing weather and visitors should be prepared for heat, cold, rain, wind or snow, the park service says.

A call to Merrell Footlab for comment wasn't immediately returned.

Jaques Billeaud reported from Phoenix and Sheila Burke reported from Nashville.

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