About Coconino County

About Coconino County

Encompassing 18,661 square miles, Coconino County, Arizona, is the second largest county in the U.S. but one of the least populated. Our county includes Grand Canyon National Park, the Navajo, Havasupai, Hualapai and Hopi Indian Reservations, and the largest contiguous ponderosa pine forest in the world. Elevations range from 2,000 feet above sea level along the Colorado River to 12,633 feet at the summit of Mt. Humphreys in Flagstaff.

Body Recovery Call at Bear Canyon Lake

Just catching up on some SAR missions from the past few weeks, including a call for the technical rescue team at about 7:30 on a Sunday morning, for a body recovery -- two, unfortunately -- at Bear Canyon Lake in the Forest Lakes area.  I wasn't able to respond to that call, but a teammate of mine filled me in the next day. This is what he said....

"Six Tech Team members showed up, and because there was rain in the forecast we loaded all the gear in the back of the Suburban instead of the pickup to ensure the rope stayed dry. We were told that an ATV had gone over a cliff, but as with most rescues the initial information is often unreliable, so we weren't sure how this one would unfold.

We finally turned toward Bear Canyon Lake on a what was initially a decent dirt road, but it deteriorated quickly.  When we arrived at the scene we found a group of Forest Service and fire hot shot personnel and the Medical Examiner vehicle.

Below us was an approximately 15-foot deep ravine, with a wrecked ATV and the bodies of two young men in their early 20s lying near it. It's always tragic to see young lives ended much too soon, and I could only imagine the pain the families were feeling.

We realized we could walk to the scene from the edges of the ravine, so with the help of the hot shots we  transported them up to the road. The Forest Service folks told us this was the 6th fatal ATV accident this year in the Forest Lakes area.

With our mission complete, we headed back on the dirt road, where  the suburban suddenly stopped running. We ended up having to load all the gear into the pickup and left the disabled suburban with [our Coordinator and one team member], who waited for the tow truck. When we arrived back at the building we were all stiff -- not from the mission but from the 5-1/2 hour drive.

For us the mission was complete. For the families of the victims, the agony of their loss was just beginning."