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Report: Hikers Were Warned Before Flood

September 30, 1997| From Associated Press

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — A ticket-taker at a popular canyon told a group of hikers that it was dangerous to enter after a rainstorm but did not order them to stay out, according to a report released Monday on a flash flood that killed 11 people last month.

Ellena Young works for the Navajo Nation, which charges admission to enter Lower Antelope Canyon. She told investigators that she allowed members of a tour group to descend ladders into the canyon at their own risk.

Twelve hikers were swept away Aug. 12 when a flash flood thundered through the narrow, twisting canyon. Only a tour guide survived. Two bodies have yet to be recovered.

The report from the Coconino County Sheriff's Department, the lead agency investigating the incident, doesn't blame anyone for the deaths but offers new details about how hikers wound up in the canyon before the flood hit.

Prosecutor Terrence Hance said Monday that no criminal charges would be filed against TrekAmerica, the British company that organized the tour for five of the victims, or the company guide who survived, Francisco Quintana.

The report said Young ordered people out of the canyon when rain fell, but five hikers and Quintana went back in an hour later and were surprised by the flood, which was fed by a severe thunderstorm miles away.

The report doesn't say how the other six hikers who died got into the canyon.

Young told investigators she advised the five hikers that "if they wanted to go back into the canyon, it would be all right with her, but that it was not a good idea," the report said. The report did not say whether Quintana was there at the time.

A spokesman for TrekAmerica denied Monday that Young warned tour members about going back into the canyon.

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