Search for missing couple caught in Utah flash flood now 'recovery effort'

Grand County authorities said Friday the search for a missing Texas couple last seen heading to a trail outside of Moab on June 21 as turned into a "recovery effort."

Grand County authorities said Friday the search for a missing Texas couple last seen heading to a trail outside of Moab on June 21 as turned into a "recovery effort." (Ashlynn Ankofski)


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MOAB — The search for a missing Texas couple that are believed to have been swept up in flash flooding outside of Moab last week has switched over to a "recovery effort," Grand County authorities said Friday.

Ray and Maranda Ankofski, ages 58 and 50, remain missing after they were last seen heading out to the Steel Bender Trail southeast of Moab in the early afternoon of June 21. Grand County sheriff's officials said Friday that using "advanced search techniques and resources" hasn't produced any signs of the couple to this point.

"The decision to transition from a search and rescue mission to a recovery was made based on evidence at the scene during the operation," the agency wrote in a statement. "The Grand County Sheriff's Office is shifting toward closure for the family and friends of Ray and Maranda Ankofski."

Storms created all sorts of flash flooding issues in and around Moab on June 21. The Grand County sheriff's search-and-rescue team helped rescue 20 hikers who were stranded in Grandstaff Canyon also just outside of Moab.

Authorities believe the Ankofskis also ran into flash flooding. Their abandoned vehicle and an all-terrain vehicle belonging to the couple were found on Monday, sparking a search of the area. Family members and authorities said they had found other items too, including a cooler that could have come from the ATV and a pair of pants with Ray Ankofski's wallet and ID in a tree.

"They got into (the flooding) and it probably tumbled that UTV down the wash, I'm going to say three-quarters of a mile before it stopped," Grand County Sheriff's Chief Deputy Mike Palmer told KSL-TV on Wednesday.

Donna Stevens, Ray Ankofski's sister, said on Wednesday that the couple was outdoorsy and familiar with Utah's terrain. She believes they would have been prepared for the elements, so she was surprised to hear that they may have been caught up by a storm.

However, she said she's been grateful for the support that the family has received since the couple went missing.

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

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Carter Williams is a reporter who covers general news, local government, outdoors, history and sports for KSL.com.

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