Canyon De Chelly Tour Fatality Still Under Investigation, Park Service Says; Four Injured People are Recovering

The fatal rollover of a Korean War-era truck at Canyon de Chelly over Memorial Day weekend is still under investigation, but the problem wasn't the back-country road, the Park Service says.

Tom Clark, superintendent for the Canyon de Chelly National Monument, tells New Times that it's too early to say whether the crash was caused by driver error or a problem with the tour truck.

Clark says he doesn't know whether the driver was cited after the crash.

The National Park Service plans to have independent inspectors looking at the other trucks operated by Thunderbird Lodge within the next several days.

On May 27, the truck carrying 13 visitors rolled after plunging off a dirt road in the Del Muerto Canyon. Richard Crowe, 60, an astronomy professor from Hawaii, was killed. Four other tourists who were flown to area hospitals with serious injuries are recovering, Clark says.

"We don't see anything wrong with the road itself," Clark says.

Vacation blogger Jim Jaillet was riding in the open-air bed of the truck and captured his view of the tragic rollover in words and pictures, as we mentioned Monday.

A portion of Del Muerto Canyon has been closed during the investigation. However, the closure shouldn't impede anyone's visit, Clark says. Though some of the national monuments ancient ruins are located in Del Muerto Canyon, they are visible from other viewpoints, he says.

Besides the six-wheeled trucks, which may be back online by this weekend, plenty of other tour options are available at Canyon de Chelly.

This has been the first accident of its kind in recent memory, Clark notes.

The tour trucks have been operating for at least 30 years with no problems.

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.
Contact: Ray Stern