Over the Edge: Death In Grand Canyon


Let me say, first off, that this book is terrifying! Hundreds of people have died at Grand Canyon, and the majority of the deaths were the result of majorly bad decisions on the part of the people who died (or the people where were guiding them). This book chronicles every death (that they know about) that has been recorded over the years at Grand Canyon, from the horrible collision of two jet airliners in 1956 that killed 128 people (and prompted the formation of the FAA) to single deaths of lone hikers (obviously a very bad idea). The description on the cover says it well: “Gripping accounts of all known fatal mishaps in the most famous of the World’s Seven Natural Wonders.”

You might ask why on earth I am even reading this. Well, you see, we visited Grand Canyon back a few years ago (I forget exactly which year), and I saw the book at a gift shop, so I bought it. I started chapter one, but, for some reason, at that time, lost interest. It sat on our bed headboard for a few years. I recently started an effort to clear the books off of that headboard, and this was the last one. So I read it.

I’m pretty sure I don’t ever want to go back to Grand Canyon.

Now, granted, I’m not one that would go horsing around, inches away from certain death, as did several hundred people in chapter one, that deals solely with people who fell off the rims. The circumstances vary greatly, from those who just leaned a little too far over and got dizzy, to those who weren’t paying attention as they attempted to get the “perfect camera shot,” to some who were simply playing around and lost their footing. Alcohol was involved in a few of them, as well.

Chapter two deals with people who died while hiking inside the canyon, most of which went in without enough water and died from dehydration. During the summer months, it reaches temperatures of 120 in the canyon. IN THE SHADE! Another fatal mistake was mentioned above, that being that some people decide to try hiking alone in the canyon. Very bad idea.

Chapter three deals with something that surprised me, and that is the occurrences of flash floods in the canyon. That seems strange for a desert, but it happens, and sometimes from storms that occur more than ten miles away!

Chapter four is about the number of people who have perished while trying to boat down the Colorado River, which is filled with deadly rapids, and can be pretty unpredictable.

There is a chapter about crashes of planes and helicopters, caused by the unpredictable air currents in the dry, hot surroundings of the canyon. There’s a chapter about freak accidents that have occurred, such as rock falls, and so on. There’s even a chapter about suicides, which don’t occur as often as you might think. Nevertheless, the do, and there is a plea at the end of this chapter from the authors: “If you are contemplating suicide, please do not come to Grand Canyon to commit it–thus risking lives of rescue personnel. Instead, seek help, call 911.” You see, people don’t think about the dangers that are caused when National Park Services has to go out and try to rescue someone. Also, of interest in the suicide chapter are the number of people who have simply driven off the South Rim. In fact, there was a rash of drive-off suicides after the release of the movie Thelma and Louise.

Lastly, there is a chapter on *gasp* murder! That may have been the most interesting chapter in the whole book, and they saved it for last. Yes, there have been murders (though not very many) in the canyon.

All in all, a very entertaining book, not designed for shock value so much as to highlight the fact that THE GRAND CANYON IS A VERY DANGEROUS PLACE!


But seriously, there are way too many people that think it’s like Disneyland, and if you get in trouble, all you have to do is snap your fingers and someone will come rescue you. But the fact is that Grand Canyon is thousands of miles in scope. And tiny people are very hard to find in a place that big.

So, if you’re planning a trip to Grand Canyon, for goodness sake, be careful. And don’t do anything stupid. If you’re going to hike, go in at least pairs or groups, and take as much water as you can possibly carry. Maybe more.

TTFN, y’all!


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