Fall Claims River Runner in Grand Canyon

September 2004. A 57 year old man died after falling approximately 35 feet while hiking in Grand Canyon National Park, on Sunday, September 5. The man has been identified as Gordon Robert Wagner, Jr. of Michigan.

Wagner had been on a non-commercial river trip with 15 others that launched on Saturday, September 4, from Lees Ferry. After being on the river for a day and a half, he and several others from the river trip hiked into North Canyon near river mile 20, where he slipped and fell at approximately 12:30 p.m. Other members from the river trip immediately provided rescue breathing, but Wagner died from his injuries shortly after the fall.

A pilot from a commercial helicopter flying nearby was contacted by the river group at approximately 3:15 p.m. The pilot contacted the National Park Service, and park rangers were dispatched to the scene where they found the body of Wagner at approximately 4:00 p.m. His body was transported by helicopter to the South Rim Helibase at Grand Canyon National Park then transported by ground to the Coconino County Medical Examiners Office in Flagstaff, Arizona.

North Canyon is a popular side canyon hike for river runners traveling the Colorado River through Grand Canyon National Park. This fatality occurred three years after a similar tragic event, when a thirteen year old boy identified as Andy Drugg of Canyon Lake Texas, died from injuries sustained in a 35 foot fall while hiking into North Canyon from the Colorado River in Grand Canyon National Park while on a commercial river trip.

Both falls took place within 1/4 mile of the Colorado River, at a point where the trail leading into the popular North Canyon narrows to a ledge and skirts a boulder above a cliff.

River Runners For Wilderness would like to remind all river runners to exercise extra caution when hiking from river trips. River runners have had serious falls occur in North Canyon, Elves Chasm, Stone Creek, Deer Creek, Olo Canyon and Havasu Canyon. Please exercise caution when near the edge. Our condolences go out to the family and friends of the deceased man.