Deaths diminish at Grand Canyon

PHOENIX – As the summer season wraps up, deaths are down at Grand Canyon National Park in northern Arizona in 2012, with officials reporting that eight people have died at the park so far this year.

That compares to 21 fatalities last year, the highest number in a decade. The 10-year average from 2002 to 2011 is 13 deaths.

The Arizona Republic reported that most Grand Canyon deaths are accidental, including falls, drownings and heatstroke. Suicides are recorded every year.

Dr. Tom Myers worked full time at the Grand Canyon Clinic for 22 years and is co-author of a book that looked at almost 700 deaths at this natural wonder.

Ninety percent of the deaths result from people “who overestimate their own ability and underestimate the canyon,” Myers said.

He said these victims “are ignorant by choice,” paying no attention to warnings about the difficulties of hiking the canyon and the dangers of getting too close to the edge.

“Desert canyoneering is brutal,” Myers said. “It’s not like jogging on the beach in San Diego.”

He added that the “safety net” at the canyon is “tighter than ever,” but that doesn’t stop people from getting into jams.

Park officials said that in 2010 and 2011, the number of search-and-rescue operations was about the same – close to 300 – and emergency personnel responded more than 1,200 times both years.

A 24-year-old tourist from France recently defied the odds by surviving a 200-foot fall from the Grandview Trail located east of Grand Canyon Village.

Florent Borrel was visiting the canyon on Labor Day when he dropped a lens cap. He went to retrieve it, realized he couldn’t and had turned around when a rock gave way and he fell.

Five hours later, he was at Flagstaff Medical Center suffering from a broken arm and wrist, a broken ankle and a sprained ankle.

Staci Whitman, a physical therapist at the hospital, said the injuries were minimal for the distance Borrel fell.

“My fall, what, 200 feet? I have just my ankle broken, my wrist broken. It’s nothing,” Borrel said. “My head is OK, and my neck is OK.”

Whitman said Borrel’s recovery could take a little time but that he should recover fully.

Borrel’s friends and family say they hope to be back in France in a couple weeks.