It’s one of the most common questions visitors ask ranger at grand Canyon nationwide Park. It seems to be an regularly unspoken curiosity. Whether it’s a healthy and balanced or unhealthy curiosity, people are often interested in death.

So, just how many civilization have died at the cool Canyon?

As of 2021, there have actually been about 900 deaths in the grand Canyon. The leading cause of death is aircraft and helicopter crashes, followed by falling native cliffs, environmental deaths (such as overheating), and also drowning. On average, about 11 people die every year in the cool Canyon.

As always, there’s MUCH an ext behind the numbers, not to cite the personal stories and also tragedies behind every statistic.

If you desire to know more about fatality in the grand Canyon (don’t worry, ns won’t call anyone), store on reading.


Nearly every one of the details in this write-up comes from the seminal publication Over the Edge: death in grand Canyon, by Michael P. Ghiglieri and also Thomas M. Myers, two world who have actually a long link with the park. Their book is painstakingly researched and also presented in an academic tone, rather than a sensational tone.

There is no need to reinvent the wheel: this two have documented fatality in the cool Canyon…well, to death. However after reading their book and crunching some numbers, I have actually some that my very own categories and lessons.

Ways to dice in the grand Canyon

Ghiglieri and also Myers (G&M) categorized the deaths by type. I have rearranged the categories a tiny for simplicity.

The numbers in parenthesis come from their listing of deaths through 2017. I tried to find numbers indigenous 2018 until currently (2021) by using the official park website’s news releases, however they are too unreliable.

From the air (379)

I to be surprised to find out the aerial deaths to be by much the best killer in the grand Canyon.

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Some of this can be explained by the tragic and unbelievable mid-air collision of two commercial airliners in 1956, which killed 128 civilization — anyone on both flights.

Interpretive display at Desert watch Watchtower

These two airplanes were transferring passengers native California to the midwest. In ~ the time, there was no federal Aviation management (FAA), so each airline to be responsible for handling its own trip paths.

Both sought permission to fly over the cool Canyon ~ above the means (presumable because that the scenery), but they didn’t communicate with every other and crashed. The boggles the mind simply thinking around the odds.

This landmark event actually led to the development of the FAA.

Even an ext unbelievable is that there to be another aerial crash over the grand Canyon in 1986, in which an plane crashed into a helicopter. Both were sight-seeing tours; 25 people died.

Plaque commemorating the event

But even if we remove them from the equation, aerial deaths still account because that much more than the following closest category!

Who knew there to be so many aircraft and helicopter crashes in ~ the grand Canyon? no me.

Three things combine to account because that this:

There are many flights over the canyon

Commercial travel flights over the grand Canyon occur at a rate of about 2 flights every minute. Yes, per minute.

Over the last few decades, the national Park has actually mostly prohibition flights end its component of the canyon to keep the environment. Yet the canyon is HUGE, and also there space plenty of areas the tour companies deserve to still paris over.

2. Air turbulence over the canyon

Hot wait in the canyon mixes through the cooler wait from the plateaus over creating a many wind and dangerous flying conditions.

3. Inexperienced tour operators

Most of the accidents have been with tour companies. The nationwide Park Service, i m sorry flies into the canyon for building projects and rescue operations, hasn’t had an aerial accident in over 40 years. Therefore it’s possible the NPS has actually much an ext experienced pilots who have the right to handle the an overwhelming flying environment.

Falls (about 198)

Overlook in ~ the cool Canyon

About 180 world have passed away by fall in the grand Canyon. G&M separated these right into the following:

Falls indigenous the ledgeFalls from in ~ the canyon self-destruction

Falls indigenous the Ledge (60)

Most civilization who ask “how many human being have passed away in the cool Canyon?” are actually asking “how many civilization have died by falling native the ledge the the canyon?” The prize is about 65 (including recent years).

People have actually fallen from the ledge when

taking selfieshorsing aroundbeing drunkurinating right into the canyonstanding up from having just satellite on the edge of the canyon (dizziness seems to it is in the main reason here).


One father was play a prank ~ above his daughter and pretended to jump turn off the ledge into the canyon. That planned to land top top a ledge a couple of feet below the rim, but he missed the ledge and plunged to his death.

One gentleman was taking a photograph of the Bright point of view Lodge v his earlier turned come the canyon. He donate up to get a more comprehensive angle for his shot…but he backed up also far and also tumbled end the edge.

There have also been many near-deaths from human being who dropped over the ledge.

One famous occasion happened through Dee Dee Johnson, that was a well-known Hollywood fashion designer. While doing a publicity shoot ~ above the sheet of the canyon for her brand-new fashion architecture — pedal pushers, or tight pants — she fell into the canyon.

Remarkably, she arrived at a slanted ledge just below, just a couple of feet far from particular death. Rescuers rappeled come her and tied a rope approximately her, lifting her out of the canyon.

She to be wearing a halter peak which the rope pulled off on the method up. She come safely, but topless, to the welcome of lot of of media men happy come cover the story.

Falls from within the canyon (63)

Falls from within the canyon include world falling if


Many that these were hikers who were dangerously scrambling off the main trail.


Some the these room mysteriously heartbreaking, like the dad that was hiking with his 13-year-old daughter top top the southern Kaibab Trail. The turned around and she was gone. In which method she dropped off the trail, 177 feet come the ground.

In 2018, Iona Hociota, an remarkable woman indigenous Romania was trying to become the 16th human to hike the length of the grand Canyon (from Lee’s Ferry come Lake Mead) — a street of around 800 miles.

She was just 24 however had two college degrees, spoke 4 languages, and had just obtained married. She would have come to be the youngest human to attain the feat.

She was close to accomplishing she goal when she took a wrong step on a trail. A rock slipped the end from her foot and she fell 300 feet off the ledge. She only had 80 miles to go.

Suicide (about 75 indigenous falls)

Suicides in ~ the cool Canyon include:

Jumping off the ledgeDriving turn off the ledgeJumping turn off bridges Gunshot

There have been about 91 suicides in the cool Canyon, v jumping off the ledge being the most typical method. However there have actually been 13 times when someone drove their auto off the ledge.


Three the these developed in one year, 1993. This came on the heels the the movie Thelma & Louis, which to be released in 1991 to an important acclaim.

In the movie’s last scene, the two protagonists drive their car off the ledge that the canyon.

Were the suicides in 1993 influenced by the movie?

We recognize that at least one that the women who died watched that movie over 50 times and also was figured out to recreate the event.

Her name was Patricia Astolfo, and also she drove she suburban off the ledge. However, it obtained high centered on a rock, preventing her indigenous falling right into the canyon.

So she obtained out of she vehicle, walked come the ledge, and jumped. Just she landed on an additional ledge 15 feet below.

Injured, she crawled to an additional ledge and also jumped. Just she landed on one more ledge 25 feet below.

Still determined, she crawled to an additional ledge and fell, this time fallout’s a fatal 75 feet.

One other disturbing event: one person jumped out of a helicopter when on an aerial tour of the canyon, come the shock the the rather on the helicopter.

Environmental (About 124)

The major causes of fatality in this classification are:

dehydrationcardiac arrest (usually indigenous the warmth or overexhersion while hiking)starving from being lostfreezingdrinking too much waterflash floodslightning strikes

Dehydration and also cardiac arrest (around 100)

But both of this are usually caused through the intense heat from within the canyon, which can gain up to 120 levels at the bottom.

The bulk of these were avoidable. Those who passed away failed to prepare properly. Castle didn’t carry enough water and either over-estimated their abilities, or under-estimated the canyon.

Another deadly mistake: many of them hiked alone. Numerous solo hikers who died got stranded and either dehydrated or starved to death since no one knew they were in the canyon – or where they were.

Yet another fatal mistake: countless of castle left the established trails and got lost. The canyon is more facility than that looks native the pickled in salt — apparently, it’s basic to acquire lost in there.

Some world who got lost confronted the complicated choice in between bad and also worse:

descend more into the canyon wherein they might get water native the flow (and endure until someone could find them), or effort to climb out of the canyon with small to no water and no certainty of recognize a good trail.


Some never made it and left behind note such together “4 days without food or water. Lost.”

Here’s other crazy: multiple skeletons have been uncovered in the canyon.

Freezing and drinking too much water

Strangely, people have likewise died from freezing and from drinking also much water!

Freezing deaths occur because the cool Canyon is high elevation and also gets snow in the winter. Some world aren’t prepared and also have gotten captured in a snowstorm in the canyon.

And due to the fact that the early 1990s, deaths from drinking too much water have actually spiked. World living by the admonition “drink before you obtain thirsty” forget come eat and also balance out the sodium in their bloodstream.

So the park now recommends pass water and salty snacks.

Flash floods & lighting strikes

Flash floods are exactly what they sound like: floods that take place in a flash.

They happen in the desert southwest due to the fact that there is often little vegetation to soak up water, and also the ground is so dried anyway the when sufficient rain finally falls, the water just flows across the soil.

While often not associated with the cool Canyon, flash floods take place in numerous of the next canyons. Occasionally a deceivingly simple stream will turn into a roaring flood.

On one specifically vengeful day, September 11, 1997, two civilization were drowning in a flash flood. One hour later, lightning struck two tourists from Germany ~ above the south rim. The two tourists survived, miraculously.

Several world have been struck by lightning and also survived. Lightning strikes an median of 25,000 times per year in ~ the grand Canyon.

Drowning in the Colorado river (about 100)


Deaths from people drowning in the Colorado River variety from

river rafterspeople trying to cross the river (before the bridges were built)people acquisition a cool-off soak to make it through the heat

The most famous deaths due to drowning room Bessie and Glen Hyde in 1928. The newlyweds to be rafting the river, make the efforts to create the more quickly time v the canyon. Also, Bessie would have end up being the first woman come raft v the canyon.

However, they never made it. Lock disappeared, and the bodies were never found. The most likely explanation is that they drowned.

In 1971, if a river-rafting guide was telling his tour team the story the the Hydes, one older mrs in the group declared to be Bessie. She claimed she murdered Glen, and fled out of the canyon, producing a brand-new life.

A couple of years later, a skeleton was uncovered in Emery Kolb’s residence ~ above the south rim. Kolb own a photography studio on the southern rim and lived there because the early on 1900s. Countless suspected the skeleton to be Glen Hyde, and that Kolb had killed him over 50 year earlier.

Both the those stories – the elderly woman claiming to it is in Bessie and also the skeleton accusation – are practically certainly false. But they included much more intrigue come a story the was currently a popular mystery.


Other methods of dice in the cool Canyon include:

murder (39)getting crushed by fall rocks (natural or detonated)cliff-jumping right into shallower-than-expected waterBASE jumpingeating gift plantsgetting crushed through a mule or horse seeing a rattlesnake (he go not acquire bit; he died from surprise)

Some the these have the right to be chalked approximately errors in judgment or just living on the edge because that the adrenaline rush.

Others, like obtaining hit by a falling boulder, were so freaky that the only explanation seems to it is in “it was simply his or she time come go.”

Has anyone passed away on a mule ride? Answer: one, and it wasn’t indigenous falling off. One accident caused the mule to autumn on a rider, crushing him. A comparable situation happened with a horse.

But the biggest classification in this ar is murder. Choose elsewhere, murders in the grand Canyon incorporate gunshots and beatings.

One certain case was an extremely disturbing.

In 1993, Richard Spangler shoved his wife off the ledge that the canyon. No one experienced him, and he report it together an inadvertently fall.

Years earlier, in 1978, the murdered his an initial wife and also two of his children. The escaped prosecution because that that too because he claimed it was a murder-suicide and also they couldn’t prove otherwise.

But thankfully, part investigators ongoing to occupational both cases, encouraged Spangler was a serial killer. In 1999, when he had terminal cancer, they acquired him to recognize to the murders. He to be sentenced come life in prison. He passed away of cancer 2 years later.

Lessons learned

I began writing this write-up thinking it would certainly be a rapid answer come a question that many world have.

I didn’t expect it to affect me. But reading story of human being who made bad choices or who just happened to be in the wrong ar at the wrong time was bound to, i guess.

Here space a few things i learned:

The cool Canyon is dangerous

Don’t get me wrong. Ns not suggesting it is so dangerous you shouldn’t visit it. The receives 6 million visitors per year and also only 11 die. So no factor to it is in alarmed.

But the is an ext dangerous than most, or probably all, other national parks. It has some distinct features that a the majority of other parks nothing have:

Huge key changes. This creates its own weather patterns, which leader to so numerous aerial crashes.It is one “inverted mountain.” most mountains weed out people as lock hike because they tire of climbing. But at the cool Canyon, people start their hikes by walk down, which renders it tempting to go too far. Not all are all set for the extreme climb merged with the intense heat.It has actually cliffs. A many them. Some human being actually wonder why the park doesn’t placed railings on every the cliffs. The answer? as well as being against the park’s viewpoint of keeping the park as natural as possible, there space over 2,000 miles of ledge top top both rims. It’s impractical. Yosemite is another park v a many cliffs, and also it have to come as no surprised that it additionally has many deaths every year.

Most deaths are avoidable

The bulk of the deaths in the canyon space due to people making poor choices. Usually, they make a look at small an option (like not filling increase on water when passing a tap) that results in big consequences (like gaining lost and not having sufficient water to survive).

There’s a class here about preparation. Nothing overestimate your capability and don’t underestimate nature.

Live life!

Even through the ideal preparation, you never understand when your number will be called. Lighting could strike; boulders could fall.

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Reading these stories made me an ext committed to enjoy it life. We only live once.

So execute what you desire to do in life. Go for what friend want. Nothing live with a bunch that regrets.

You don’t desire your “some days” come turn into “nevers” since you stepped top top the wrong absent at the dorn time.


Want to learn more?

Check out the book Over the Edge: fatality in cool Canyon, by Michael P. Ghiglieri and Thomas M. Myers.

Thinking about visiting the grand Canyon?

If you’re going come live life by visiting the cool Canyon, make sure to inspect out our guide! We provide a step-by-step game setup for gaining the most out of your visit come the park. Us also provide you v a multi-hour audio overview to tell girlfriend all about the stories behind the features.