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Pa. woman dies after being swept over waterfall in Glacier National Park

Witnesses say victim was trapped underwater for minutes

By Allen Cone
A 26-year-old woman visiting Glacier National Park in northwestern Montana died after being swept over St. Mary Falls in Montana. Photo by Ellen Port for UPI
A 26-year-old woman visiting Glacier National Park in northwestern Montana died after being swept over St. Mary Falls in Montana. Photo by Ellen Port for UPI

June 24 (UPI) -- A 26-year-old woman visiting Glacier National Park in northwestern Montana died after being swept over the waterfall, the federal park said Monday.

On Sunday, rangers say the 26-year-old unidentified woman from Pennsylvania fell into the water above St. Mary Falls, according to a news release from the park. The falls, which are on the park's east side, are 35 feet high and popular for day hikers.

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Witnesses told rangers the woman was swept over the falls at about 5:20 p.m. and then trapped under the water for several minutes.

Bystanders were able to pull the woman from the stream and were able to administer CPR until emergency crews and an ALERT helicopter team could get to the scene. But she never regained consciousness.

The death is under investigation and additional details are still being gathered.

"Park staff would like to thank Glacier County, ALERT, Babb Ambulance and U.S. Border Patrol for their support, along with numerous bystanders for their immediate assistance," according to the release. "The park extends their deepest condolences to family and friends of the woman and asks that the public respect their privacy."

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Glacier National Park Conservancy said water is the main cause of fatalities in Glacier National Park.

"Please use extreme caution near water. Swift, cold glacial streams and rivers, moss-covered rocks, and slippery logs all present dangers, the conservancy said. "Children, photographers, boaters, rafters, swimmers, and fishermen have fallen victim to these rapid, frigid streams and deep glacial lakes. Avoid wading in or fording swift streams. Never walk, play, or climb on slippery rocks and logs, especially around waterfalls. When boating, don't stand up or lean over the side, and always wear a lifejacket.

The park gets its name from the many glaciers and glacial forces that shaped its rugged topography over two million years.

Glacier National Park, which was established in 1910, covers about one million acres of land, and contains 25 "active" glaciers that move due to thawing and melting. It was joined together with Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta in 1932 as the world's first international peace park.

A website describes the park as "a showcase of melting glaciers, alpine meadows, carved valleys, and spectacular lakes. With over 700 miles of trails, Glacier is a paradise for adventurous visitors seeking wilderness steeped in human history. Relive the days of old through historic chalets, lodges, and the famous Going-to-the-Sun Road."

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