Searchers believe missing Texas couple was caught in flash flood outside of Moab

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MOAB — Searchers resumed efforts Wednesday to find a missing Texas couple believed to have vanished from an off-road trail in a flash flood outside of Moab.

Ray and Maranda Ankofski, ages 58 and 50, were last heard from early Friday afternoon as they were setting out on the Steel Bender trail, family members told KSL-TV.

According to a statement from the Grand County Sheriff's Office, searchers began looking after an abandoned vehicle was reported Monday morning. They subsequently also found an all-terrain vehicle belonging to the couple in the area.

Donna Stevens, Ray's sister, told KSL that in addition to those vehicles, searchers also located a cooler and other belongings that could have come from the ATV.

Officials said Wednesday searchers located a pair of pants with Ray Ankofski's wallet and ID in a tree.

Grand County Sheriff's Chief Deputy Mike Palmer said searchers were "pretty sure" the couple had been caught in the flood waters Friday.

"It looks as if they went to cross it (and the) flood was already there. They got into it and it probably tumbled that UTV down the wash I'm going to say three-quarters of a mile before it stopped," Palmer said.

On Wednesday, crews were combing two separate areas of 28 acres and 18 acres, respectively, that were connected to the locations of the ATV and Ray Ankofski's pants.

Palmer said the search of the broader area had been challenging due to conditions left behind by the recent flash flood.

According to Palmer, crews had already worked approximately 1,000 combined man-hours trying to locate the couple.

Palmer said the operation may downsize as early as Thursday, but the Grand County Sheriff's Office would continue to work to find the couple.

"We won't stop looking for them," Palmer pledged. "There is always hope until there isn't."

Feeling helpless from afar

"We're all in Texas, we've posted multiple things on multiple ATV groups," Stevens said. "I feel kind of helpless when, you know, you're sitting here in Texas and it's like, 'Yes, we could hop a plane and go to Moab,' but I'm not sure to do what."

The family said they were hoping to keep attention on the case and keep local eyes looking, though the sheriff's office's statement Tuesday asked for the public to avoid the Steel Bender Trail while the search was ongoing.

Stevens said the couple had been to Utah and Moab multiple times before, that they were very outdoorsy and would have been prepared for the elements, but didn't know if they were caught in a storm or some other adverse event Friday.

"I would have thought that they would have been able to get back from the mile-and-a-half where they were at," Stevens said.

She said she was grateful for the support that the community had expressed so far.

"We've been doing a lot of praying right now," Stevens said. "Prayers, prayers — we need prayers."


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Andrew Adams
Andrew Adams is an award-winning journalist and reporter for KSL-TV. For two decades, he's covered a variety of stories for KSL, including major crime, politics and sports.


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