The families of three French hikers killed in a flash flood through a winding subterranean canyon in August are moving to sue the tour group that sponsored their hike.
Eleven hikers died Aug. 12 when a wall of water from a rainstorm miles upstream thundered through Lower Antelope Canyon, a narrow, twisting series of corkscrew-curved walls located on Navajo land near Page.The only survivor was Francisco Quintana, a guide for tour company TrekAmerica, the American branch of Great Britain's Premiere International Corp. Five of those who died were on a TrekAmerica tour.
The suit, which seeks unspecified damages, alleges that Quintana allowed tour members to enter the canyon despite a danger of flash flood.
An attorney for the hikers' families submitted the suit to the clerk's office of the U.S. District Court in Phoenix on Thursday, but the suit was not docketed because of a mix-up involving filing fees, said the attorney, John Q. Kelly. Kelly said he sent the fees Thursday by overnight delivery.
The suit says that Quintana allowed the three French hikers and two other group members who perished in the flood to enter the canyon even though he "knew, or should have known" of a risk of flash flood. It says that he then "abandoned or left them" in the canyon until it was too late to save them.
Quintana was swept more than a half mile through the narrow canyon and managed to climb onto a ledge.
Mike Campbell, chief meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Flagstaff, said Thursday that a severe thunderstorm warning was in effect at the time of the flood.
The suit also alleges that the group was warned of the flood danger by a Navajo woman collecting tickets to enter the canyon but that Quintana still allowed them to enter.
TrekAmerica operations manager Tony Church declined comment Thursday, and Kelly declined to discuss his complaint until it is formally filed.