YAVAPAI POINT —When the sun begins to appear on the eastern horizon at Grand Canyon each morning, the sights seen during those first minutes can take one’s breath away. Many walk away from the experience believing they’ve seen a miracle of nature.
Search and rescue ranger Hunter Bailey goes over the edge at Yavapai Point to retrieve the fall victim’s purse, which included all of her money and credit cards. The purse was found on a ledge about 30 feet below the spot where the 72-year-old Missouri woman had been stranded. (Photo by Greg Moore/NPS)
For 72-year-old Jacqueline Strini, a tourist visiting from Missouri, seeing the sunrise at Grand Canyon was a must. So, on Monday morning of last week, she headed to Yavapai Point to witness the spectacle.
But a miracle of another kind occurred that morning. Strini became one of the few people to fall over the rim of the Grand Canyon and walk away with only scratches.
"She had come out to the Yavapai Museum to get sunrise photos," said Ken Phillips, a search-and-rescue ranger who responded to the incident. "She was walking down the stairs at the overlook just east of the museum and she tripped."
When the elderly woman tripped, she somehow catapulted herself over a rock wall that serves as railing at the Canyon’s edge. Strini slid about 10 feet before she was able to stop herself from falling further by catching hold of a small tree — the only possible thing to grab on the way down.
"Beyond the tree was a steep scree slope, followed by a shear drop," incident commander Rosie Peragrine reported.
With the woman holding on to a small tree, she ended up with her legs in a Y shape and being wedged in a crack on a "postage stamp sized" ledge, Phillips said.
"That prevented her from going down another 100 feet," he said. "If she hadn’t caught herself, it would have been a fatal fall."
Ranger Greg Moore rappelled over the edge to Strini and secured her until a haul system could be rigged to raise them both to safety.
"The only real injuries she had were abrasions and scrapes," Phillips said.
Rangers were thankful to see a happy ending to such a dangerous situation.
The woman was taken to Grand Canyon Walk-In Clinic for her minor injuries. But the rangers did make one more trip over the edge.
"We had to go back and re-rig everything to get her purse," Phillips said. "It had her wallet and charge cards. It had gone down a lot further than she did."
Moore, the ranger who rappelled over to help the woman, estimated the purse had fallen 30 feet below where Strini had been, coming to rest on a small ledge.
Ranger Hunter Bailey made the trip down for the purse.