A wrecked car discovered in mid-November, along with a body, in the Abyss area of the canyon was hauled out in a four-hour operation last Thursday.
The vehicle, a red Chrysler Crossfire convertible, was recovered at about 1 p.m., using a KMax heavy lift helicopter. A team of 18 people were involved, with three working below the rim.
The body, that of an unidentified middle-aged man, had been recovered on Friday, Nov. 17, the day after it was spotted by an NPS helicopter crew responding to a medical call on the Bright Angel Trail. It was taken to the Coconino County Medical Examiner's Office in Flagstaff that day.
According to incident commander Angela Boyers, the car had been rented from Alamo Rent-A-Car at Los Angeles International Airport and was linked to a guest who had stayed at a local hotel for two nights, checking out on Oct. 31. She said they believe the incident leading to the fatal wreck happened the first week of November.
The car drove off the rim just west of Mohave Point on Hermit Road, through a gap in the trees. At that point, the sheer drop into the Abyss is less than 20 feet from the road.
Boyers said the vehicle hit three times before it came to a stop about 600 feet down, wedged into a narrow ledge at the top of the Coconino layer. Debris from the car fell another 200 feet.
The body was found about 150 feet above the car.
According to ranger Bil Vandergraff, officials have not determined whether the vehicle left the road deliberately or not.
"We are treating it as a fatality and we are investigating," he said.
He said that there have been no missing person or be-on-the-lookout reports corresponding to what they know of the recovered body. DNA testing is being done to positively identify the body.
The most time-consuming part of the recovery effort was in rigging the vehicle to haul it out. The actual lifting of the 3,200-pound car and transporting it to a flatbed truck at Mohave Point would take about 15 minutes, Vandergraff said. The vehicle was taken to the NPS impound facility and will be released to the rental company when investigators are finished with it.
The rest of the debris will be cleaned up when the weather is warmer.
The cost of the operation was about $10,000, which Alamo agreed to pay. It was planned to coincide with a pre-scheduled job to haul pump house equipment to Roaring Springs.