67-year-old California man tragically dies after falling from Grand Canyon viewing point
An elderly man fell to his death from the Grand Canyon on Wednesday of this week, marking the third fatality at the national park site in just eight days.
The 67-year-old, who has not been named but has been confirmed as Californian, reportedly fell off the edge at a viewing spot near the Yavapai Geology Museum on the South Rim, according to park spokesman Murray Shoemaker.
Rangers were alerted by a bystander who witnessed the incident, and eventually located the body at about 400 feet (122 metres) below the rim. It was recovered by a helicopter and technical rescue team, and park officials are now investigating the matter.
On average, there are only about 12 fatalities in the park per year, so this recent spate of deaths has been an anomaly. At the start of this week, it was reported that a tourist from Hong Kong fell to his death while trying to take photographs.
The victim - a man thought to have been in his late 50s - had been taking pictures close to the edge of the canyon the Eagle Point observation area, according to a spokesman for Grand Canyon West, and had ignored warning signs in the area.
Witnesses say that he slipped and fell, and subsequently plummeted 1,000 feet (304.8 metres) to his death. A helicopter search was initiated immediately, and the body was recovered the same day.
According to David Leibowitz, a spokesman for the Eagle Point observation area, the man had been part of a tour group visiting the world-famous site. CNN reported that at the time of his death, he had strayed slightly from his group, and was taking a selfie near the edge of the canyon.
Tragically, the man - who has not yet been formally identified - was only about 100 yards from the Skywalk, a purpose-built platform on which tourists can take photographs, when he fell.
The other recent death is not believed to have been caused by a fall, but the NPS and the Coconino County Medical Examiner are conducting an investigation into exactly what happened.
Vanessa Ceja-Cervantes, a spokesperson for the park, said that - usually - a very small percentage of fatalities at the park are caused by falls, explaining that "The causes of those deaths range from heat, to drowning, to medical issues and more. High elevation plays a role in some of the fatalities."
On the Grand Canyon's official website (and on various signs around the park), there are warnings to stay away from the cliff edges.
"Stay at least six feet (2 m) from the edge," it says. "Hold on to Children. Do no lean over or go past wallk and railings. Always be aware of your surroundings. Do not back up without first looking where you are going."
Even so, around two to three people every year still fall to their deaths, and a number of others sustain serious injuries from tumbles over the edge.