American charged for Banff visit last year found dead in Grand Canyon

American authorities have recovered a body in the Grand Canyon believed to be the Kentucky man who recently made headlines in Alberta when he was charged for breaching quarantine rules in Banff.

After a days-long search and rescue operation, the National Park Service (NPS) located and recovered what are believed to be John Pennington’s body and motorcycle on Wednesday.

Last summer, Pennington, 40, who was travelling through Alberta from Alaska to the lower 48 states, was arrested under Canada’s Quarantine Act while staying at a Banff hotel with a woman.

He was accused of failing to follow COVID-19 public safety rules twice while in Banff but those charges were stayed by the Alberta Crown last month.

On Sunday, American authorities asked for the public’s help finding missing person John Pennington. Just two weeks before he disappeared, Pennington’s Alberta charges for breaching the Quarantine Act were dropped by the Crown. (Facebook/National Park Service)

‘Grateful for life’

On Feb. 23, two weeks after Pennington’s Canadian charges were dropped, Pennington is believed to have entered Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona officials say.

Earlier that day, Pennington posted a video of his first skydiving experience. 

“Thankful and grateful for life and another day,” said Pennington from the airplane. 

On Sunday, rescue officials initiated a missing person search and asked the public for help finding Pennington.

The park service said he was travelling alone and was likely on a yellow motorcycle. It said he had left his vehicle near one of the trailheads.

Rescue turned recovery 

On Wednesday, park rangers recovered the body about 140 metres below the rim and transported it by helicopter to the local medical examiner’s office.  

“Based on evidence found with the body, the individual is believed to be missing person John Pennington,” said the National Park Service in a press release. 

The 40-year-old, who called himself “Mr. Collagen” on social media, posted many self-esteem affirmations on his Facebook page.

That page is now full of friends expressing their condolences.

Alaska loophole

In late June, Pennington entered Canada from Alaska.

Non-essential travel between Canada and the United States is prohibited, but Americans are allowed to come through Canada to get home to or from Alaska. They are required to use the most direct route under rules enforced by the Canada Border Services Agency.

Americans are not allowed to drive through national parks, leisure sites and tourist locations.

Last summer, some Banff residents started calling the rule the “Alaska loophole” after spotting American licence plates around the resort town.

A spokesperson for the Public Prosecution Service of Canada declined to explain why Pennington’s charges were dropped last month. 

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