Search teams find body of Arizona university professor

The body of Arizona State University Professor Debra Schwartz was found Sunday in a slot canyon near Pine Flat Campground in Oak Creek Canyon, Arizona, May 8, 2016 | Photo courtesy of Coconino County Sheriff's Office, St. George News

ST. GEORGE – A concerted search effort of multiple agencies in Coconino National Forest, Arizona, that began Friday ended Sunday when the body of 59-year-old Debra Schwartz was found in a slot canyon.

This photo of Debra Schwartz, taken in another national forest on an unspecified date, is provided to assist people in recognizing her. Schwartz was last seen Wednesday, May 4, 2016, in the Pine Flat Campground in Oak Creek Canyon, Coconino National Forest south of Flagstaff, Arizona. Anyone with information about Schwartz or her whereabouts is asked to call the Coconino Sheriff's Office at telephone 800-338-7888 | Photo (undated) courtesy of Coconino County Sheriff's Office; St. George News
This photo shows Debra Schwartz in a different national forest. The photo was released when public alert was given that she had gone missing. Schwartz’s body was found in a slot canyon near Pine Flat Campground in Oak Creek Canyon, Coconino National Forest, Arizona, Sunday, May 8, 2016. Cause of death has not yet been determined. | Photo (undated) courtesy of Coconino County Sheriff’s Office; St. George News

Schwartz, an Arizona State University Professor, checked into Pine Flat Campground in Oak Creek Canyon and was planning to camp alone from Tuesday-Thursday. When she failed to check out as scheduled, the campsite host notified authorities she was missing and a massive search effort was initiated.

At approximately 11:10 a.m. Sunday the body of Schwartz was located in an unnamed slot canyon below the rim of Oak Creek Canyon. According to a news release issued Sunday by the Coconino Sheriff’s Office, a three-member technical rescue team that was tasked with checking the slot canyons located her body.

Cause of death has not yet been determined.

On the third day of the intensive search for Schwartz, rescuers were in the field and under way by daylight. Sunday the search resources consisted of:

  • One team of five searchers mounted on horseback
  • Three teams of off-road vehicles
  • Six teams of ground searchers with five people in each team
  • One dog team consisting of three dogs and six handlers
  • Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office Air Rescue Helicopter and crew
  • Arizona Department of Public Safety Air Rescue Helicopter and crew based in Flagstaff
  • The Yavapai County Jeep Posse
  • Three technical rescue teams with three technicians in each team

Several slot canyons that run from the rim to the canyon floor were partially searched Saturday. Steep inclines, very rough terrain and thick underbrush made conditions unsafe for conventional ground searchers, the Coconino Sheriff’s news release said.

The three technical rescue teams that were deployed Sunday were assigned to thoroughly check the slot canyons in the area, leading to the location of Schwartz’s body.

The technical rescue team completed two rope rappels to make their way into the canyon to a spot where they were able to see the body and then a third rappel to actually reach the body. She was located approximately ½ mile from her campsite.

On recovery, the Coconino County Sheriff’s news release said, the body will be entrusted to the Coconino County Medical Examiner’s Office. Sheriff’s  detectives will work with the Medical Examiner’s Office to determine the cause and manner of death.

Assisting the Coconino Sheriff’s Office were: Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office and Search and Rescue Unit that provided ground searchers, dog search teams, mounted searchers, the Yavapai County Jeep Posse, its Air Rescue Helicopter and technical rescue teams; Arizona Department of Public Safety that contributed air rescue helicopters and crews based in Flagstaff and in Kingman; the ASU Police Department that helped gather information to help in the investigation; and, the Sheriff’s Office said in its release, the tireless men and women of the Coconino County Search and Rescue Unit.

Debra Schwartz was last seen Wednesday, May 4, 2016, in the Pine Flat Campground in Oak Creek Canyon, Coconino National Forest south of Flagstaff, Arizona. Anyone with information about Schwartz or her whereabouts is asked to call the Coconino Sheriff's Office at telephone 800-338-7888 | Photos courtesy of Coconino County Sheriff's Office; composite image St. George News

Related: Arizona State University professor disappears from campground; public help requested

Email: jkuzmanic@stgnews.com

Twitter: @JoyceKuzmanic  @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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2 Comments

  • CDub May 9, 2016 at 7:13 am

    Those cliffs in Oak Creek Canyon can be dangerous. What a sad story.

    Just some regional information…In, Arizona, someone who works at Arizona State is never referred to as an ‘Arizona’ professor. An ‘Arizona’ professor is someone who works at the University of Arizona and the 2 schools loathe being called the other.

    • Joyce Kuzmanic Joyce Kuzmanic May 9, 2016 at 8:16 am

      Now see, this is very useful input, CDub. In this case, we’re using Arizona in the headline as a descriptive not as a school reference. (We identify Arizona State University on first reference in the report.) However, loathing is not something I care to engender so while we wouldn’t use ASU in a headline, lest it be confused with Arkansas State University, Alberta State University and the like, I will remember your two cents and phrase it differently next time it comes up. In fact, I’m adding it to our Stylebook right now.

      Thanks!

      ST. GEORGE NEWS
      Joyce Kuzmanic
      Editor in Chief

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