Flash Flood Kills Rafter in Grand Canyon


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A 29-year-old woman was found dead and others were injured following a flash flood July 14 in Grand Canyon National Park, according to the National Park Service.

Authorities were notified that two individuals were missing and others were injured after the flash flood on the Colorado River.

When help arrived, Rebecca Copeland, 29, of Ann Arbor Michigan was found dead in frigid water after a flash flood swept through a commercial rafting group’s overnight camp site along the Colorado River. The other individual, who remains unnamed, was uninjured.

In all, seven people were evacuated by air and one was in critical condition, according to NPS.

Copeland was found near the camp that had washed away in the middle of the night evening by a torrent of water that rushed through a slot canyon, park officials said. Copeland was a passenger on a commercial rafting group that had set up its overnight camp at an established site about a quarter of a mile from the slot canyon, according to NPS spokeswoman Kaitlyn Thomas.

The flood hit the camp set up about 40 miles downstream from where the rafts launched at Lees Ferry. The NPW statement said flash flood activity impacted the Tatahatso Camp near River Mile 38. Grand Canyon maps also show one camp at mile 39.3 called Redbud Alcove, and another called Buck Farm at 41.2.

The flood reportedly careened down the slot canyon at Redbud Alcove and washed away the camp where two commercial rafts with 30 passengers pulled off the river to stay the night. The motorized trip operated by Arizona Raft Adventures was scheduled to last more than a week.

“Our hearts our broken that people on the trip lost somebody, people at home lost somebody,” John Dillon, executive director of the Grand Canyon River Outfitters Association, told Associated Press.

Forecasters had issued a flash flood watch for the area that day, but it’s not clear whether the rafting guides were aware. The flood was part of monsoon storms that inundated Arizona that same week, including in Flagstaff, Ariz.

NPS Accident Report

GRAND CANYON, Ariz. – On July 14 at approximately 6:00 p.m., the Grand Canyon Regional Communications Center received a report of two individuals missing and multiple parties injured after flash flood activity impacted Tatahatso Camp near River Mile 38 on the Colorado River. Grand Canyon Search and Rescue sent two paramedics to the scene to assess and treat patients. Active monsoonal weather in the area limited access to the scene for overnight search and rescue operations.

At approximately 2:30 a.m., one patient who was in critical condition was flown out via Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS) helicopter from the area. Four additional patients were evacuated by air on July 15 to the Flagstaff Medical Center; they are in stable condition
at this time.

At approximately 11 a.m. on July 15, the Grand Canyon Regional Communications
Center received a report that a commercial river trip had located the two missing individuals near Tatahatso Camp, one deceased and one uninjured. The deceased has been identified as Rebecca Copeland, 29, of Ann Arbor Michigan.

Flash floods are common in the desert southwest, including Northern Arizona. This is because the arid, sparsely vegetated environments found in these areas have little capacity to absorb rainfall. The resulting runoff moves rapidly through the narrow canyons and steep terrain found throughout the region. In many areas, even small storms can turn normally dry
streambeds into raging torrents of water in a matter of minutes. Be alert for the possibility of flash flooding anytime that rainfall is forecast. For more information on weather dangers in Grand Canyon National Park visit: https://www.nps.gov/grca/planyourvisit/weather-dangers.htm

An investigation into the incident is being conducted by the National Park Service in coordination with the Coconino County Medical Examiner. No additional information is available at this time.




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