Candlelight vigil tonight; teenage life lost in tragedy at Havasupai Canyon

Snow Canyon Lady Warriors give tribute to K.J. Harrison who died on June 20, 2012. Taken at Dixie State Team Basketball Camp, St. George, Utah, June 21, 2012 | Photo courtesy of Jesse Shipp

ST. GEORGE – A candlelight vigil is planned for 9:30 p.m. tonight at Warriors Field, the home of the recently crowned 3A state champion baseball team at Snow Canyon High School, where Kreg Harrison, Jr. played infield, pitched and was instrumental in their run through the state tournament.

Harrison tragically succumbed to an apparent drowning Wednesday while visiting Havasupai Canyon with his Boy Scout Troop, Green Valley 6 Ward Scout Troop 1800.

Coconino County Sheriff’s detectives are investigating the incident, with the assistance of Bureau of Indian Affairs Police Officers who are assigned to Supai Canyon and death investigators of the Coconino County Medical Examiner’s Office. The investigation is ongoing. Incident details included in this story are preliminary; among other things, the location of the incident is remote and communication with the investigators on site is limited.

The canyon, also known as Supai Canyon, is on the Havasupai Indian Reservation inside the Grand Canyon.

Gerry Blair, public information officer for the sherriff’s department, said that at about 2:09 p.m. on Wednesday the BIA Police report having received notice of a visitor to the canyon who was a possible drowning victim in a pool of water at Mooney Falls.

A medical doctor and nurse from the Supai Medical Center and BIA Police Officers immediately responded to Mooney Falls.

Harrison had recently arrived in Supai Canyon with his Boy Scout Troop. The group was composed of 12 adults and 19 boys.

According to the release, Harrison and three other scouts were swimming in the pool of water immediately below Mooney Falls. The boys who were swimming with Harrison said they were attempting to swim near to or underneath Mooney Falls.

Investigators describe the pool beneath the falls as about five feet deep with a very strong undercurrent beneath and in the immediate area of the falls. Blair said he couldn’t say if the undercurrent is just an existing condition at this time or an ongoing condition.

“We’ve had incidents where folks have jumped and picked the wrong place to jump and died,” Blair said, and added that this is the first one reported as due to an undercurrent.

St. George News has received reports from Scout family members that several of the boys jumped from the falls and Harrison took longer than usual to come to the surface. Blair said the BIA Investigator’s report will include witness statements which were still being taken when he obtained his preliminary information.

The boys saw Harrison struggle and go under the water. One of the other boys attempted to pull Harrison above the water, however the undercurrent was so strong that it almost pulled the second boy under as well. Eventually one of the other swimmers was able to pull Harrison to the shore.

Numerous people, including a medical doctor who was traveling with the Scout troop and a BIA Officer, attempted to save Harrison’s life by administering CPR. After an extended period of time it became evident that life saving efforts were unsuccessful.

One of the adult witnesses said that two of the Scouts were still trapped behind the falls. Adult leaders and Boy Scouts formed a human chain and rescued the two trapped swimmers.

An Arizona Department of Public Safety Rescue Helicopter flew Harrison’s body to the Coconino County Medical Examiner’s Office in Flagstaff, Ariz., where the investigation will be continued.

The initial intent of the hiking party was to stay in the canyon until Friday and then hike out. However, in light of this tragic accident the Boy Scouts are being flown out of the canyon by helicopter today.

Sheriff Bill Pribil and the men and women of the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office have extended their deepest sympathies to Harrison’s family members, friends and fellow scouts.

Kreg Harrison, Jr. with his family, undated | Photo courtesy of Jesse Shipp

Reflections on K.J. Harrison

Harrison, known to his friends as K.J., was a champion, a fierce battler on the athletic fields and a young man with a bright future.

Such is the assessment from the coaches who knew him best.

I just can’t say enough about that kid,” said Snow Canyon High School Warriors coach Reed Secrist last month, moments after the sophomore hit an 0-2 pitch into center field to help Snow Canyon beat Juan Diego in the first round of the 3A state playoffs. “He’s in the line-up because he’s a battler. He just never gives up.”

An emotional Secrist was reached a couple of hours after the accident and reiterated his feelings on Harrison.

“K.J. was just one of those kids who did everything the right way,” he said. “He worked hard, he listened and was coach-able. He was happy and positive. As a coach, you’d love to have a whole team of K.J.s.”

Snow Canyon basketball coach James Brown said Harrison’s future looked very promising.

“He would have definitely gotten some time in varsity next year,” he said. “This is just such a shock and so sad. He had a lot of great things ahead of him.”

Harrison was used sparingly early in the baseball season by Secrist and his staff, but earned more playing time as the season progressed. By the time the playoffs began, Harrison was starting and was a key hitter in the line-up.

Along with the two-run game-winning hit against Juan Diego, Harrison also delivered a two-run single against Spanish Fork in the state semifinal game, a 7-2 Warriors win.

Harrison and his teammates celebrated the next day by winning the state championship at Kearns High School.

Kreg Harrison, Jr. batting at the Utah State Tournament, Kearns High School | Photo courtesy of Jesse Shipp

Joyce Kuzmanic contributed to this article.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @oldschoolag

Copyright 2012 St. George News.

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  • San June 21, 2012 at 5:04 pm

    Every parents/family’s nightmare. Condolences.

  • George Bond June 29, 2012 at 4:31 am

    What sad news for this to happen. The area there is very beautiful but nature is unforgiving and such a tragedy should never had happened.
    Back in 2010 our family had a trip there and we rescued 3 men from the Havasu Falls who are lucky we reacted quickly and had the resources to get them out. We never got their names, but they are lucky to be alive.
    It seems inviting to venture close or even under the falls, but it is not a shower. That water has tremendous
    force to it besides possible debris falling too.
    I know as an adult scouting advisor that you can warn people about all the dangers of whatever may happen, but you can only hope that your words are heard.
    So sorry to here of another loss.

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