Man falls 4,000 feet to his death in Grand Canyon. Here’s how to stay safe

Visitors step onto the Grand Canyon Skywalk on opening day.

Authorities recovered the body of an unidentified man who fell to his death while visiting the Grand Canyon and walking across a viewing platform.

According to the Mohave County Sheriff’s Office, the 33-year-old man fell off the Grand Canyon West Skywalk at about 9 a.m. on June 5. Crews recovered his body shortly after the fall.

The man remained unidentified by authorities as of Sunday morning.

The Grand Canyon Skywalk, a horseshoe-shaped glass bridge, extends 70 feet away from the canyon walls and allows viewers to look directly into the Colorado River 4,000 feet below.

The man’s body was recovered and taken to the Hualapai Nation. Mohave County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue team posted the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in their Facebook post regarding the incident.

As of now, the reason for the fall is unknown and an investigation into the incident has been launched by local authorities.

A look at previous incidents

In 2022, 11 fatalities occurred at the Grand Canyon. This number is slightly below the average of 12 deaths occurring every year at the rolling red-rocked wonder of the world that attracts around five million visitors a year. Two to three of those yearly deaths are from accidental falls over the rim, according to a Grand Canyon spokesperson.

The odds of dying from falling off the rim in the Grand Canyon are 1 in 1.8 million visitors, according to a study from law firm Hastings & Hastings.

Airplane and helicopter crashes are the most common cause of death at the Grand Canyon, followed by falling, which includes both accidents and suicides. Other causes of death include hiking and environmental deaths such as dehydration, starving, and freezing, according to data from Hastings & Hastings.

In 2023, three known fatalities have occurred so far including the June 5 Skywalk fall. The others include:

  • May 21: A 36-year-old woman from Indiana was attempting to do a day hike to the Colorado River and back when she collapsed on the trail and was found pulseless and unresponsive.
  • February 17: A 56-year-old man from Wisconsin was found dead on the Bright Angel Trail below Havasupai Gardens. He was attempting a day hike from the rim to the Colorado River and back.

In 2022, 11 fatalities occurred from an array of causes, most notably drownings, accidental falls and unresponsive hikers. These include:

  • March 24, 2022: 68-year-old Mary Kelley from Colorado fell overboard while whitewater rafting, nine days into her trip. She fell near Hance Rapid in the Colorado River. People pulled her out and attempted CPR, but rangers were unable to resuscitate her.
  • April 4, 2022: 34-year-old Margaret Osswald from Utah died after falling from a private boating trip. She fell 20 feet near the Ledges Camp along the Colorado River and sustained fatal injuries. She was on day six of her trip and had hiked into the canyon to meet her group when she fell.
  • June 2, 2022: 41-year-old Melanie Goodine from Canada was found unresponsive on the Bright Angel Trail. Grand Canyon National Park officials said it was around 95-to-104 degrees Fahrenheit the day she hiked.
  • June 11, 2022: 47-year-old Sheetal Patel from Tennessee fell into the Colorado River during a commercial river trip. She was cooling off along Pipe Creek Beach, when she was caught by the current.
  • August 26, 2022: A 44-year-old man was allegedly off the trail when he accidentally slipped off the North Rim edge and fell to his death. His body was found 200 feet down near the Bright Angel Trail.
  • September 4, 2022: 59-year-old Delphine Martinez from Arizona died hiking Thunder River Trail. She became disoriented and fell unconscious while on a multi-day backpacking trip. It was over 100 degrees in the canyon that day.
  • September 10, 2022: 67-year-old Ronald Vanderlugt died after his boat flipped over in the Colorado River. Members of his group pulled him out of the water and began CPR, but he could not be resuscitated. Four others on the boat sustained nonfatal injuries.

Safety tips while at the Grand Canyon

With over 5 million visitors a year, many coming from all over the nation and world to the see the breathtaking beauty of the canyon, it is priority to stay safe while at the nature attraction.

Here are some tips from the Grand Canyon National Park rangers:

  • Stay on designated trails and walkways and always keep a safe distance if at least six feet (2 m) from the edge of the rim.
  • In areas where there is a railing or fence, do not climb over the barrier.
  • Keep an eye on all of the people in your group, especially small children. Make sure that your travel companions have both feet firmly planted on pavement or developed trails at all times.
  • Know where the edge is. Watch foot placement and look for trip hazards.
  • Do not run, jump, or perform physical stunts when near the rim.
  • Do not back up without first looking where you are going.

Temperatures within the Grand Canyon typically warm to over 100 degrees. Summer thunderstorms can also bring danger to visitors. While hiking or observing the canyon, it is important to keep these hiking tips from the city of Phoenix in mind when temperatures hit scorching highs:

  • Watch the Weather: Arizona’s temperature can be deceiving and deadly. Hike when it’s cold outside, try early mornings and evenings when there’s more shade.
  • Dress appropriately: Wear proper shoes, clothing, hat and sunscreen.
  • Bring Water: Hydrate before you go. Have plenty of water, more than you think you need. Turn around and head back to the trailhead before you drink half of your water.
  • Keep in Contact: Carry a mobile phone.
  • Team Up: Hike with others. If hiking solo, tell someone your start and end times, and location.
  • Be Honest: Do you have a medical condition? Asthma, heart problems, diabetes, knee or back problems? Don’t push yourself! “Even trained athletes have been caught off guard by getting dehydrated on Arizona trails.”
  • Don’t Trailblaze: Enjoy the Sonoran Desert’s beautiful and undeveloped landscape, but please stay on designated trails.
  • Take Responsibility: Don’t be “that person” — the one who wasn’t prepared, shouldn’t have been there for health reasons or ignored safety guidelines. Be the responsible hiker, who takes a hike and does it right.

Crisis hotlines for Arizonans

Services for Arizonans in crisis include:

  • Dial 2-1-1 at any time to reach the free 2-1-1 Arizona information and referral service and connect with free resources available locally throughout the state.
  • Solari Crisis & Human Services offers a free, statewide crisis line 24/7/365 – dial 844-534-HOPE (4673). Help is also available 24/7/365 via text by texting “hope” to 4HOPE (4673).
  • Dial 988 to reach the National Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. Help is available in English and Spanish. It’s free and confidential for those in distress who need prevention or crisis resources for themselves or loved ones.
  • La Frontera Empact Suicide Prevention Center’s crisis line serves Maricopa and Pinal counties.

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