WEST JORDAN — Officials on Tuesday released the names of two young girls who lost their lives in a flash flood in a slot canyon over Mother’s Day weekend.
McKinzley Graff, 7, and her sister, Elexia Graff, 3, were both swept away Monday when a heavy storm came up with little warning over the San Rafael Swell and the popular Little Wildhorse Canyon near Goblin Valley State Park.
The two sisters were hiking with their mother and uncle and were about 3 miles into the narrow slot canyon when the storm hit, according to authorities. Tim Graff, the girls’ father, saw the water flowing out of the trailhead and then saw McKinzley, whom he attempted to save with CPR.
The body of Elexia was recovered about noon Tuesday approximately 28 miles away from where she was last seen. Nearly 80 searchers from four counties participated in the effort to find her.
Before their names were officially released, residents in the Graff’s West Jordan neighborhood had already heard the news. They decorated the streets with pink and teal ribbons and hung a large banner across the Graffs’ garage stating, “We Love You.”
Friends have noted that Tim Graff and his wife, Becky, who was also injured, are experienced hikers. The father’s Facebook page has pictures of outdoor hikes and adventures he regularly takes with his family. A GoFundMe campaign was started to help support the Graff family. It is filled with pictures of Tim and his daughters in a UTV Razor and the family in the outdoors.
Some of the pictures were taken from Becky Graff’s Facebook page from April.
“Easter weekend has always found us in Moab ... hiking, biking and riding our four wheeler,” she wrote as a caption for the pictures.
“Words cannot describe the heartbreak of what has happened and the support from family, friends and those who just want to be able to send prayers, love and thoughts to honor their beautiful daughters is truly needed,” according to the fundraising campaign organized by Elite Marketing.
“Becky and Tim were always on a family adventure with their girls ... Biking, Hiking, Camping, etc. Tim is the perfect ‘girl’ Dad. ... He was always letting the girls paint his nails, put bows in his hair, do his makeup. ... And he would actually go to the store with them dressed that way,” the post continued.
Friends and family members also took to social media to post messages of condolence to the Graff family.
“There isn’t words strong enough to describe how devastating and heartbreaking this is. My nieces were the most precious and sweetest girls who always had smiles on their faces. This is the worst thing that could ever possibly happen,” Allie Graff posted on Facebook.
“Kinz and Ellie are THE sweetest little girls you would ever meet. Last summer our families got together to camp and our girls fell in love. Happiest, smiling rays of sunshine! I know they are in Heaven spreading their rays to everyone there!” another woman posted.
A Venmo account was also established to take donations for the family at Loves4graffs.