29-year-old Rebecca Copeland was rafting within Grand Canyon National Park when a sudden monsoon swept Arizona, taking her life.
Gathering from several sources, the tragic, freak death of a Grand Canyon rafter has come to light. According to a press release from Grand Canyon National Park, Rebecca Copeland of Ann Arbor, Michigan, was first reported missing on Wednesday, July 14.
She, along with another rafting partner disappeared after flash floods ripped through Tatahaso Camp near the Colorado River’s River Mile 38, per park officials. Joelle Baird, park spokeswoman, tells the Associated Press that the flood victims were to stay overnight at the camp. They were reported missing that same day.
On Wednesday, search parties went in search of the missing rafters. Several others were treated for injuries after the monsoon, with five rafters being airlifted to Flagstaff Medical Center. The survivors are currently in stable condition.
The other missing rafter was found alive on Thursday, July 15. Tragically, Copeland was found dead within the flood damage.
The young woman’s death comes amidst heavy storms throughout Arizona. The state has been experiencing a “lengthy drought” for months, per CNN.
Deadly Flooding Rips Through Grand Canyon National Park, Areas of Arizona
“This year… We have a very real concern that is different from past years,” National Weather Service meteorologist Marvin Percha adds for CNN. “Due to all the fires that have caused burn scars and a loss of vegetation, we have a chance for even greater runoff and even more intense localized flash flooding.”
Percha says that while the rain is necessary, these circumstances lead to it becoming deadly. Acting Arizona state climatologist Erianne Saffell echoes this.
“Wildland fires remove vegetation and harden the soil, preventing water from infiltrating the ground. Heavy rain over burn scars can lead to flash floods and debris flows,” she tells the outlet.
As a result, NPS sent out a press release for Grand Canyon National Park and other local areas. According to the release, the issues occur because “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.”
To this end, “even small storms can turn normally dry streambeds into raging torrents of water in a matter of minutes,” the release warns.
Grand Canyon alongside the National Park Service warns individuals to further flash flooding. Whenever rain is in the forecast, they say, visitors and locals must be on high alert.
Flooding isn’t the only natural disaster affecting the Grand Canyon. In 2021, several individuals have died due to excessive heat within the park. The same day as Rebecca Copeland’s death, a Louisiana hiker would die from collapsing from the heat on Bright Angel Trail. NOLA.com identifies the Louisiana native as Rodney Hatfield of Washington, Louisiana. He was 44-years-old.