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Saif Savaya (16) drowned trying to swim across the Colorado River at the Grand Canyon
Published: May 19, 2009 @ 11:12 AM
Saif Savaya (16)
Apr 30, 2009
Cause of Death:
Grand Canyon National Park, AZ
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The bodies of two people who had attempted to swim across the Colorado River at the Grand Canyon but were swept away have been found.
The bodies of Saif Savaya, 16, and Joey Merrill, 22, were located Thursday afternoon by a private boating party and a commercial river operator, said Grand Canyon National Park spokeswoman Maureen Oltrogge.
Oltrogge said park rangers had wished for a better outcome but that they were glad the bodies were recovered for their families.
"To me there's no such thing as closure; it will always be with them," she said. "It's a tragic accident. They will live with it forever, but at least they now know."
Park rangers used a helicopter to retrieve Savaya's body Thursday. The student at Williams Field High School in Gilbert, Ariz. was found about 10 miles downriver from where he last was seen.
Merrill's body was found about 12 miles downriver and was flown out of the canyon Friday morning.
Merrill's brother, 16-year-old Mark Merrill, also drowned in the incident on April 30. His body was found days later.
The river was cold at the time they jumped in, with temperatures of about 50 degrees and swift currents.
The three had been on a trip sponsored by the Tri-City Baptist Church in Tempe, Ariz. Joey Merrill was a senior at the church's International Baptist College. His younger brother and Savaya were on the yearly trip as part of the college's outreach and recruitment program. The Merrills were from Sanders in eastern Arizona.
In a letter posted on the church's Web site, the college's student life director and dean of students Keith Gephart described Joey Merrill as gentle, kind and unselfish and said his excitement was contagious.
Merrill, who served as the student body president, was a great example to the youth and adults and will deeply be missed, Gephart said.
"We can only pray that the Lord will raise up more young men like Joey," he said.
Bodies Of 2 Other Hikers Recovered
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