Colorado Woman Dies at Grand Canyon National Park After Falling Into Colorado River Rapids

by Amy Myers
(Photo by: Terray Sylvester/VW Pics/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

A multi-day adventure in the Grand Canyon turned into a horrific accident when a Colorado native on the boat fell into the rapids and died. Last Thursday, in the late morning, Mary Kelley, 68, was visiting the Grand Canyon National Park on a multi-day boating trip. On day nine of the excursion, Kelley and the group traveled down the Colorado River near Hance Rapid when she fell into the water.

Fellow members of the group pulled Kelley out of the water and called for emergency rescue. Quickly, park officials arrived in a helicopter and tried to resuscitate the Grand Canyon paddler. Tragically, though, their efforts were unsuccessful.

According to Fox News, Grand Canyon officials say the rapids at Kelley’s location at the intersection of the Red Canyon are more difficult to paddle than is typical. Recent flash floods have pushed debris like logs, rocks and other debris into the rapids. Not only does this add more bumps and turns along the way for the group of paddlers. However, when a boat hits something like a hidden log, it can suck the front end of it underneath. This can lead to an extremely dangerous situation if the paddlers are unable to free the craft from the debris, as they can become stuck as well.

Additionally, hidden rocks under the water can be a huge hazard for a paddler that falls directly on top of it. The conditions of Kelley’s death are not yet clear. However, the Coconino County Medical Examiner is conducting an investigation to determine the cause of death.

Grand Canyon Paddler Dies in Rapids During Monsoon

Kelley’s unfortunate death wasn’t the only tragedy that Grand Canyon officials have witnessed from the rapids recently.

Last summer, 29-year-old Rebecca Copeland was rafting through the national park when a monsoon hit the state. On July 14, Copeland’s loved ones reported her missing. She and her paddling partner disappeared when the freak weather hit the area, sending search parties all along the Colorado River to find the pair. Joelle Baird, a park spokeswoman, stated that the two were planning on staying at Tatahaso Camp.

Thankfully, Copeland’s partner was alive when authorities found them on July 15, but sadly, they could only recover the 29-year-old’s body.

Several other paddlers on the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon required emergency rescue as well. Park officials even had to airlift five others to Flagstaff Medical Center to treat their injuries. Luckily, they were in stable condition.

Prior to the monsoon, Arizona was experiencing an extreme drought for months. Because of the intense change in weather conditions, flash flooding is even more common and more dangerous. During these periods, Grand Canyon park officials urge paddlers to be on high alert.