GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK, Ariz. (AP) - Grand Canyon National Park officials are scaling back a search for two missing hikers swept down a stream below the North Rim.
Park spokeswoman Robin Martin says the search for 62-year-old LouAnn Merrell and her 14-year-old stepgrandson, Jackson Standefer, will continue Thursday with the use of a helicopter, drone and motorized inflatable raft.
Martin says ground teams no longer will be used because they've now checked areas that they can reach on foot.
A statement released by the hikers' families says they support the decision to scale back the search and thank all those involved in the effort.
The hikers have been missing since late Saturday when they lost their footing while crossing a stream during a multi-day hike in a remote area of the canyon.
A family spokesperson told WRCB TV on Wednesday night that the National Park Service had called off the search.
The full statement read:
"Wednesday evening, the National Park Service announced that they were calling off the search for Jackson Standefer and LouAnn Merrell, who have been missing in the Grand Canyon since Saturday evening. The families would like to thank everyone for their tremendous outpouring of love, prayers and support throughout this tragic ordeal. Please respect both families' need for privacy as they come to process and seek God's comfort during this difficult time. We believe families are forever and we will be reunited with our loved ones."
PREVIOUS STORY: Four days after a seasoned backpacker from Vernal and her stepgrandson were swept into a rushing creek in Grand Canyon backcountry, crews were combing crags and banks of the Colorado River for signs of the missing pair Tuesday, according to NBC affiliate KSL in Salt Lake City.
The National Park Service said it was directing "an intense search" for the two, who went missing Saturday.
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The rescue team included neighbors and former colleagues of Lou-Ann Merrell, 62, a 10-year volunteer emergency medical technician and the wife of Merrell Boot Co. founder Randy Merrell. The couple lives in Vernal, Utah.
Her husband and son, Ivan, were also on the trip, said Jake Phillips, a friend and relative of Lou-Ann Merrell.
"Considering everything, their spirits are still high," Phillips said Tuesday. "Just hoping for a miracle to come along, that they will be found alive and in good condition.
Phillips said the Merrells have helped create a strong community in the Uinta Basin, at times pitching in to cover funeral costs for families who could not afford a ceremony to honor lost loved ones.
Phillips said the search has drawn "a love outpour from our community."
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