Grand Canyon National Park

Hiker Falls to His Death in the Grand Canyon as a Deadly Year Continues at the Park

Cliff falls are the second most common ways people die in one of America’s most dangerous national parks.

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An Oregon hiker has become the 18th person to die in the Grand Canyon this year after he fell 50 feet during a trip there, the National Park Service says.

David Colburn fell to his death Saturday while hiking a narrow slot in the Grand Canyon. The Grand Canyon Regional Communications Center dispatched multiple teams of technical and swiftwater rescuers to respond, but due to darkness and terrain concerns, they had to suspend their search, and the body was found and recovered the next day.

Family and friends took to Facebook to remember Colburn, 48, who served as the fire chief of the Tygh Valley Rural Fire Protection District. In a comment, one friend called his death “terribly tragic” and a “huge loss to our community.”

According to a press release from the National Parks Service, the NPS and Coconino County Medical Examiner’s Office are conducting an investigation for the incident.

The Grand Canyon averages 12 deaths each year; Colburn’s death is the park’s 18th so far in 2021. The most common causes of death are from airplane crashes, falls, and dangerous environmental conditions such as overheating or drowning. In total, around 275 people have died from airplane crashes over the Canyon, but 128 of those deaths come from a single tragedy in 1956. Two planes collided midair, which became the deadliest aerial crash in the United States at that time.

Last week was particularly deadly for the Grand Canyon: On Monday, August 23, rescuers ended a multi-day search when they recovered a body that they suspected to be Gabor Berczi-Tomcsanyi, who had been missing since abandoning his car at one of the park’s visitor centers around July 19. In July, two Grand Canyon hikers died just five days apart, both after being found unresponsive on the trail.