Runner's Death
(Updated August 9, 2004)

From this morning's Morning Report: 2004

Grand Canyon National Park (AZ)
Death of Canyon Runner

On Thursday, July 8th, Chicago resident Margaret L. Bradley, 24, and a companion began a day run from the South Rim on the Grandview Trail with the objective of crossing the Tonto Plateau and returning to the rim via the South Kaibab Trail - a 27-mile circuit. The runners had five quarts of water between them, but ran out sometime during mid-afternoon. At that point, Bradley and her companion decided to separate. She then attempted to make it down to Phantom Ranch to reach water and assistance; he spent the night in the canyon, suffering from dehydration and exhaustion, then managed to reach the South Kaibab Trail, where he sought the assistance of a USGS employee who was hiking out of the canyon. She used her satellite phone to contact park personnel and get directions to a water cache at Tipoff. No information was provided about their itinerary, nor that Bradley was missing. He believed that she'd gone on to Phantom Ranch, so asked a trail crew employee to leave a message at the ranch telling her that he'd abandoned his hike, but would shuttle her car back to the South Kaibab Trailhead for her return trip to Flagstaff. Bradley was reported missing to Flagstaff PD when she failed to meet her family there on Friday. Flagstaff PD then notified the park, where search efforts were immediately begun. Search dog handlers Marsha and Denny Bratcher from Page, Arizona, were flown to Grand Canyon by Glen Canyon NRA pilot Jim Traub. Ranger Chuck Sypher and court officer Jennifer Sypher interviewed Bradley's companion in Flagstaff and were able to immediately relay information on where to focus search efforts. The park's helicopter was launched, with pilot Mike Brinkworth, helicopter manager Mark Murray, paramedic Tom Clausing and helitacker Mark Peck on board. They located Bradley's body in Cremation Creek between the Tonto Trail and the Colorado River, a thousand feet below the trail. Bradley had negotiated three pour- offs (dry waterfalls) while heading toward the river and apparently became stranded above a fourth pour-off which could not be negotiated. The Coconino County medical examiner has determined her death to have been accidental, caused by dehydration due to environmental heat exposure. The temperature at Phantom Ranch on July 8th reached 105 degrees Fahrenheit. Bradley was in excellent physical condition, had been recently featured as an athlete of the month in a Chicago athlete magazine article, and had run the Boston Marathon with a time of 3:05. She had come to Northern Arizona for high altitude training. Running in the canyon is most popular in the fall months. Marc Yeston was incident commander. [Submitted by Ken Phillips, SAR Coordinator]

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Don't mean to sound insensitive or harsh, but there are lots of lessons to be learned here:

1. "Water?" What about power bars, gatorade, clif bars, trail mix, emergen-c, Erg, lemonade (Bob's favorite), i.e., electrolyte replenishment.

2. "Mid afternoon?" If you start at 5:00 a.m., you should be able to run 27 miles in the canyon in about 6 - 9 hours, i.e., you should be finished before it gets really hot in the day... at least that's the plan.

3. "Separate?" Fundamental mistake. Bad decision.

4. "Stranded?" Never climb into or down something you can't climb back up. Read Edward Abbey's horror story on that. Remember, you don't know what lies ahead; so, be prepared to go back.

5. She was probably skinny as a bean pole. Fat people don't look too sexy in a thong or speed-o, but we are robust in a survival situation. It would take 5 days for Buhrman to die...

6. "Spent the night?" If you are going to run 27 miles and you don't show up that day, someone ought to be out looking for you. It's one thing to be 24 hours late on a week backpack trip, but more than 4 hours late on a marathon, someone should have been aware of the itinerary and notified the authorities.

7. The world is a dangerous place; err on the side of conservatism.


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