“Tragedy Behind The Beauty” by Reva Lachica Moore

(I wrote this in 2007 when the word “selfie” was not used yet. Pic taken by Mary Grace.)

I do not like to write about grim topics, but if this article could save even just one person who visits the Grand Canyon, my writing would be all worth it. I started writing this article last year but decided not to finish it. However, when I read last week about a 4-year-old who fell to her death 500 feet down the Grand Canyon, I decided to finish writing what I had started.

Last year, while viewing the Grand Canyon at Yapi Point, I noticed a lady standing by a tree some 20 feet from the edge of the rim while her husband walked very close to the Canyon’s edge.

“Are you scared to get close to the edge?” I asked the lady.

“Yes. There’s no way you’d see me walking near it like him,” she replied, pointing at her husband. “Anyone can push you over the edge and call it an accident.” She laughed a bit, so I thought maybe she was just joking.

The fact of the matter is—the majority of the visitors to the Grand Canyon do not realize there could also be a dark side to this magnificent place. All they see is the breath-taking beauty of this impressive creation of God. One could look at it for days and remain in awe. I did not realize the chilly and gloomy side either—not until I spotted in the gift shop the book, Edge: Death in Grand Canyon by Michael Ghiglieri and Thomas Myers. I bought the book and after reading a few pages, I could not put it down. It talked about the hundreds of deaths in the Canyon due to accidental lethal falls, suicide, drowning in the Colorado River, air collisions, even murder. In this article, I am focusing only on the deaths that could have been prevented.

In the book’s “Foreword” written by a park ranger, he told of the tragic aftermath of a practical joke pulled by a father on his daughter by falling backwards off the Canyon rim down to a ledge hidden from her view. His falling force carried him beyond the ledge to a death plunge into the Canyon.

Death in Grand Canyon talked about accidents of victims who had consumed alcohol and walked on the Canyon’s edge and fell to their death.

Many fatal accidents had also happened to sober tourists who did not have the sense of danger while standing on the rim of this mile-deep gorge. They died posing for pictures, walking back a step too many, or leaning over for a better look or better view, or gazing absent-mindedly through the view finder. Or strolling along rocky paths as casually as if they were walking through a shopping mall. Warning signs, guard rails and fear do not register in their minds, so they become careless and fall.

It is said that these two activities—posing for or taking photographs—account for 20% of accidental fatal falls from the rim.

Of the 50 accidental falls recorded in the book, 3 were young males who were simply “goofing-off.”

Another fatal factor is nightfall. Six (all males) of the 50 victims—five of them fell at night while camping or walking alone. A possible cause is the male urge to urinate off high places (coupled with dizziness possibly from alcohol consumption).

From the statistics of accidental deaths, it showed that men take more risks, seemingly fearless, particularly in safer “look out” points on the rim, rock-hopping for an audience of family and friends, or even strangers, and often doing so for someone’s camera—when they slipped off and plunged into their death.

Here are accidental deaths in the Grand Canyon as documented in the book:

A man took a side step while posing for his own photograph on the rim’s edge. He stepped on a crack, lost his balance, and fell off.

A young man crawled under a guardrail with his girlfriend to sit on the rim’s edge. When he later got up to go, he lost his balance and fell. The rangers had a hard time locating his body but finally found it 950 feet below.

An elderly woman apparently fainted, collapsed to her knees and fell 500 feet. A man climbed over a guard wall, smoked a cigarette and started to put on an act, playfully jumping from rock to rock on the edge of the rim. He lost his grip and fell over backwards, plunging 300 feet.

Four young people crossed the guard rail and sat on the edge. Three of them got up and went back to their car to make sandwiches. They heard a scream. The friend who was left behind slipped and fell 350 feet.

Two other people lost their footing while taking photos and fell down the abyss.

A young woman crossed the guard rail and sat on the edge to watch the sunset. She slipped and fell 400 feet.

A man drove and dropped off friends at the Canyon’s edge. While backing up to turn his car around, he drove off the edge 500 feet.

A woman walked far out on the edge to take a photo. The rock crumbled under her weight. She fell 150 feet.

A father had parked the family car in gear, but still in overdrive, with two children (5 and 1) in it. The parking brake was not set. While he stood outside the car some 200 feet away, the car started rolling. After 25 feet, it plunged over the rim 100 feet, hit the rocks and caught on fire.

Sad to say, those families who lost loved ones in the Grand Canyon will always see it not as an incredible natural wonder, but as a grim place that took away a loved one’s life.

God uses beauty to show His love for man. Satan, on the contrary, uses beauty to lure man to fall. The beauty of a woman, or the good looks of a man, the glitter of material things, the attractiveness of a name or a title, and the like. All of these can tempt anyone to commit sin. And only Jesus can keep you from doing evil. “And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.” Matthew 6:13

Note: I just saw this write up today and decided to share it since the Grand Canyon is open for visitors.

Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”