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Valley woman dies after fall off Mather Point at Grand Canyon National Park

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Posted at 11:41 PM, Jul 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-07 10:56:17-04

It's a place known for some of the most incredible sightseeing in Arizona, but even with its beauty, it's no stranger to tragedy.

"It breaks my heart," said Andrea Lankford, a former park ranger at the Grand Canyon National Park. "I looked at her pictures...she looks like such a nice person. I'm sorry to her family."

Valley resident, 59-year-old Maria Andrea Salgado Lopez, died Friday, July 3, after falling off a rim west of Mather Point. It's an area Lankford says can see hundreds of tourists at a time.

"That's often your first view of the Grand Canyon when you come," she added. "There's also a lot of what we call social paths, where people are going your own way and trying to get a unique view or unique photo."

Grand Canyon Park officials say Salgado Lopez was taking photos before she fell. Her body was discovered about 100 feet below the rim.

"It's really 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," said Miriam Weiner. She and her daughter were visiting the Grand Canyon for the first time when the woman fell to her death.

"I saw people out in that area start to hug each other, trying to comfort each other and shield them from what they were seeing," she added. "So, that told me this is really bad."

Weiner started recording video shortly after the fall, where you can hear many screaming for help.

"I just feel really bad for the family," she said. "I've been thinking about what they must be going through and it just brings tears to my eyes."

The National Park Service says they see an average of 12 deaths a year at the Grand Canyon, but not all related to falls. Others happen due to heat-related or medical issues. However, Lankford says despite safety measures and previous incidents, falls are not uncommon.

She says park rangers aren't always available to watch over visitors either.

"Their staffing is low and it's a busy park," she said. "Rescue Rangers could very well be busy on another incident while you're at Mather Point, so there's rarely rangers that are standing there to warn you. That's why you have to take personal responsibility for your own safety."

The National Park Service and the Coconino County Medical Examiner's office are investigating.