SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Two young sisters who died in flash flooding that sent torrents of water roaring into a narrow canyon in the Utah desert were identified by police on Thursday.
McKinzley Graff, age 7, and Elexia Graff, 3, were hiking with their mother and uncle in central Utah’s Little Wildhorse Canyon when a fierce storm blew through Monday afternoon, authorities said. Their father was waiting at the trailhead parking lot.
The tall, curving sandstone walls of the canyon are so narrow at points that hikers must turn sideways to pass, leaving few exits for hikers to escape sudden storms as the water rushes over the hard earth and collects in canyons.
The water swept the girls away, and their father Tim Graff spotted his older daughter as he waited for the hikers to return. He ran to her tried to resuscitate her, but she died at the scene, according to the Emery County Sheriff’s Office.
Elexia was found on the banks of the Muddy River the next day, spotted by a helicopter during a search and rescue operation about 230 miles (370 kilometers) south of Salt Lake City.
A total of 21 other people with different groups escaped the flooding.
The family is from the Salt Lake City suburb of West Jordan. Colleagues who set up a GoFundMe page to help the family pay for funeral and medical bills wrote that Tim and Becky Graff were dedicated their children and loved family trips in the outdoors.