Girl plunges 550 feet to her death at Yellowstone National Park
Great Geyser at Yellowstone National Park via Flickr

An 8-year-old girl plunged some 550 feet (168 meters) to her death at Yellowstone National Park on Sunday after stepping off a trail overlooking a 1,200-foot (366-m) canyon and losing her footing, a park official said on Monday.

The child and her family were hiking a popular path along the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone - an ancient 20 mile-long (32-km) geologic formation - toward a fenced platform where visitors can observe the park’s tallest waterfall when the accident happened, Yellowstone spokesman Al Nash said.

Park crews on Sunday rappelled from a helicopter to retrieve the body of 8-year-old Zahra Allahyari of Poway, California, from where the child had fallen against a rocky outcropping above the floor of the colorful canyon, officials said.

It was the second such recovery in two days after tourists suffered fatal accidents at Yellowstone. A swift water rescue team on Saturday extracted the body of a seasonal hotel worker who was swept away one week ago while tubing the powerful Yellowstone River, where rafting is banned because of safety concerns, Nash said.

The body of Darien Latty, 22, of Demorest, Georgia, was found submerged Saturday where it had been pinned by a boulder about a quarter of a mile (400 m) from the confluence of the Lamar and Yellowstone rivers in the northeastern part of the park.

Just a handful of the roughly 3 million annual visitors die by accident at a park that spans parts of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, Nash said, adding, “Both of these incidents remind us of the need to be vigilant of your personal situation and that of those around you when visiting a wild place like Yellowstone.”

(Reporting by Laura Zuckerman in Idaho and Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles,; Editing by Dan Whitcomb, Alden Bentley and Eric Walsh)