College student dies after falling from 'treacherous' cliff during group photo with friends

A college student has died after falling off a cliff at a famous hiking spot in Arkansas during a photo with classmates.

According to the Associated Press, Andrea Norton, a 20-year-old college student from South Dakota died Saturday after falling 100 feet off a cliff in the Ozark-St. Francis National Forest. She had been re-adjusting herself for a picture with friends from Briar Cliff University in Sioux City, Iowa.

Norton tumbled from Hawksbill Crag, a.k.a., Whitaker Point, a beautiful hiking spot once ranked in a Top 10 Places to Kiss” article and where couples often take engagement photos. A 3-mile trail dotted with wildflowers and a waterfall leads to the rock formation, which is shaped like a bird’s beak.

The Buffalo Outdoor Center warns on its website, “Caution: Please be careful in this area. A bluff line can be a pretty thing, but also a dangerous one. We cannot stress enough the importance of remaining cautious and staying back from sheer drop-offs, as well as keeping a vigilant eye on children, even teenagers.”

A Briar Cliff spokesperson told Yahoo Lifestyle, “It is with very heavy hearts that we confirm the sudden passing of Briar Cliff University’s Andrea Norton. Andrea embodied BCU’s values in everything she did including her compassion for all, a love for the environment and an openness to everyone she met. Our deepest condolences and prayers go out to Andrea’s family and friends during this very difficult time. Counselors are currently assisting Briar Cliff students, faculty, staff and all who knew Andrea.”

The school posted a photo of Norton’s memorial, writing on Facebook, “…Andrea was a passionate environmental science major, exemplary student, and dedicated athlete….” And the Briar volleyball team tweeted, “We are saddened by the unexpected passing of our beloved teammate Andrea Norton. #22 on the court, #1 in our hearts.”

Sheriff Glenn Wheeler of Newton County, Arkansas did not return Yahoo Lifestyle’s information request. Sixty-one people spent nearly five hours on Norton’s rescue, he told Missouri news station KY3.

Norton’s death was reportedly the second fall in 2019, but Wheeler said building a fence around the crag wasn’t practical. “It will only hamper our efforts and will take away from the natural and wild beauty of the place that people go to appreciate,” he told KY3.

“It’s a beautiful beautiful area,” said Wheeler, “but it’s also kind of a treacherous area.”

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