GRAND CANYON, Ariz. (KNXV/CNN) - A 59-year-old Arizona woman is dead after falling at the Grand Canyon. Authorities found her body about 100 feet below one of the site’s most popular viewing areas.
Witness Miriam Weiner and her daughter were visiting the Grand Canyon for the first time Friday, and she was in disbelief to see groups exploring off the beaten path at Mather Point, an area that can see hundreds of tourists at a time.
“I said to my daughter who was with me, ‘That doesn’t look safe,‘” Weiner said.
Then, she heard screams.
“It was the type of scream that you hear wailing, crying, people shouting ‘no’, that sort of thing, and then, I realized I need to call 911,” Weiner said.
Officials with the Grand Canyon National Park say 59-year-old Maria Salgado Lopez had been hiking off trail, taking photographs with family when she accidentally stepped off the edge. Her body was discovered about 100 feet below the rim.
“It just brings tears to my eyes. It’s just very sad to go out there and think you’re just going for a vacation and sightseeing, and you come back without your mom or your wife,” Weiner said.
A GoFundMe set up to cover Salgado Lopez’s funeral expenses has raised more than $18,000. According to the website, she is survived by her husband, daughter and two sons.
Andrea Lankford worked as a park ranger at the Grand Canyon in the late 90s. She says despite safety measures and previous incidents, falls are not uncommon, and there are many spots, such as Mather Point, where visitors venture off to get a better view.
"It's kind of a seductive beauty that makes you want to get closer to it," Lankford said. "If you see a guard rail, if you see a sign, that's up there for a reason. Maybe because something bad happened there in the past."
Lankford says if she could sit down with Salgado Lopez’s family, she’d tell them it wasn’t their fault and that accidents happen.
The National Park Service and the Coconino County Medical Examiner's office are investigating.
In a statement, park officials encouraged visitors to stay on designated trails and walkways and always keep a safe distance from the edge of the rim. They also reminded visitors to stay behind railings and fences at overlooks.
Officials say about a dozen people die at the Grand Canyon each year, including deaths from heart attacks and other medical issues.
In late June, a California woman identified as 49-year-old Catherine Houe died from what officials believe was heat exposure while hiking the South Kaibab Trail to spend the night at Phantom Ranch.