A missing 64-year-old woman from Sedona, Arizona was found dead over the weekend after disappearing during a hike at Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah, officials reported.
Jeanne Roblez Howell was reported missing around 7 p.m. last Friday when she failed to return from a 2 p.m. hike on the 8-mile Fairyland Loop trail located in the national park.
Park officials initiated search efforts that evening, teaming up with the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office and the Utah Department of Public Safety to scour the area. Rescue crews searched through the night before discovering Howell’s body at approximately 1:30 a.m. Saturday morning.
According to the park service, Howell’s body was located in Campbell Canyon, roughly one mile east of the Fairyland Loop trail. She was pronounced dead at the scene by a Garfield County medical examiner.
The cause and manner of Howell’s death are not yet known. However, park officials reported flash flooding in the area around the time she went missing due to a thunderstorm that hit the northern end of Bryce Canyon on Friday afternoon.
Bryce Canyon National Park is known for its unique geological formations and hiking trails that attract over 2.5 million visitors per year. The popular Fairyland Loop trail winds for 8 miles through colorful hoodoos and thick forests before looping back to the start.
Benjamin Lee, head of school at Verde Valley School, told the Verde Valley Independent newspaper that Howell was “an experienced and enthusiastic hiker.” Howell had retired last year from a long teaching career that spanned 30 years.
Search crews faced challenges covering the vast remote terrain during stormy conditions Friday evening. The investigation into Howell’s death remains ongoing as park officials determine whether the flash flooding was a factor.
“This is a tragic event, and our deepest sympathy goes out to the victim’s friends and family,” said Allana Olbrich, acting Bryce Canyon superintendent, “I also want to express the park’s appreciation for the support we’ve received from the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office and the Utah Department of Public Safety.”
This marks the first death of a visitor this year at Bryce Canyon. Park officials are urging hikers to take proper precautions and prepare for rapidly changing weather conditions in the backcountry.
Cover photo courtesy of: Anna Irene