A one-time ranger Mount Rainier and Olympic national parks died late last week when the small plane she was riding in crashed in southern Utah.
Laurie Axelsen, 41, and Brent McGinn, 49, took off from the Bryce Canyon Airport in a privately-owned Cessna 172 for a pleasure flight over Mount Dutton, continuing on to Page, Ariz. Both were off duty at the time and had flown to Bryce Canyon so McGinn could meet friends and scout out elk hunting locations.
Early on Saturday, Glen Canyon’s dispatch center received a report that the plane was overdue. A search was soon started by Garfield and Kane Counties, the National Park Service and Classic Lifeguard, a local air medical evacuation service. Around 8 a.m., the crew from Class Lifeguard spotted the plane in a rugged area known as Deep Creek on Mount Dutton in the Dixie National Forest. Both Axelsen and McGinn were killed in the crash, according to a Park Service news release.
“When you think about what rangers do every day and the frequency with which they put themselves in harm’s way for the protection of visitors and park resources, it is a bitter irony that a recreational outing on a day away from work took the lives of two of our law enforcement rangers,” Glen Canyon acting Superintendent Kym Hall said in a statement released Sunday.
Axelsen had worked at Glen Canyon for more than eight years. A native of Great Falls, Mont., she started with the Park Service as a ranger at Mount Rainier in 1989 and went on to work at Olympic, Big Bend and Shenandoah national parks.
She is survived by her parents and a brother.
McGinn, the chief ranger at Glen Canyon, had worked at the national recreation area for almost three years. From Duluth, Minn., he had started his career with the National Park Service as a technician at Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in 1980. He also worked at Bryce Canyon and Zion national parks and Canaveral National Seashore.
McGinn is survived by his parents and three siblings.
Hall described McGinn and Axelsen as well-known and passionate people, saying their loss will leave a “tremendous hole in our organization.”