'Beautiful' mother dies slipping into waterfall while reaching for a branch: 'She loved nature'

Elise Solé
Stephanie Espinosa, 35, and a mother-of-two fell into a rushing waterfall at Lake Tahoe, California. (Photo: GoFundMe)
Stephanie Espinosa, 35, and a mother-of-two fell into a rushing waterfall at Lake Tahoe, California. (Photo: GoFundMe)

A California mom fell into a waterfall, swept away by rapid waters to her death.

Dina Stephanie Espinoza, 35, was sitting in a pool of water at Eagle Falls in South Lake Tahoe. When she reached for a branch, she accidentally slid into the waterfall.

“Resources were immediately deployed to the area, including Search and Rescue ‘Swift Water’ and ‘Tech Rope,’ along with ESDO Dive Team,” a press release from the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office in Placerville, Calif., read. “Unfortunately, when Dina was located, she was found diseased. The accident is being investigated by State Parks and EDSO is handling the coroner’s investigation. Next of kin notifications have been made.”

Sgt. Anthony Prencipe of the El Dorado Sheriff’s Office tells Yahoo Lifestyle that Espinosa’s cause of death will not be released before her autopsy is finished.

On Friday, the North Tahoe Fire Protection tweeted that “a young woman who was taking photos at the falls, lost her footing and went over…”

Fire protection district spokesperson Erin Holland also told NBC on Saturday, "She was taking photos too close to the edge.”

On Facebook, NTFPD wrote, “Every year, there are deaths on our waterways and in our back country,” the post read. “Our message is to help visitors understand the dangers inherent to our beautiful region, and especially after this record winter, our creeks, rivers, waterfalls and lake carry many dangers that visitors need to be aware of. Our only hope is that this tragic accident will help others to take heed and use extreme caution when they are recreating in the area.”

Brother Nick Martinez told CBS13 that his sister was not distracted by her phone, disputing reports. “When I go back to my furthest memory in life, it’s with her. She is my older sister but has been more of a mother to me,” he said. “The whole reason why I’m doing this with you guys is to clear up the articles, they were really disturbing. It really made Stephanie sound like she was a young girl who was just trying to take a selfie and fell off a cliff.”

Martinez and Espinosa’s sister did not reply to Yahoo Lifestyle when contacted for comment.

Martinez wrote a GoFundMe page to pay for the needs of his sister’s two children, reportedly 14 and 16-years old, and her funeral.

. “….Those of you who knew Stephanie know how much love she gave to everyone in her life, how she was always there to help and support in anyway that she could,” Martinez wrote. “For those of you who didn't have the opportunity... she was a beautiful human being inside and out. She was the core of her family, the eldest sister, the strong, centered one that would always bring people together, she valued that more than anything. Stephanie had an energy about her, always positive, optimistic, appreciative and caring, a free spirit. She would light up any room she walked into. She gave everything for those that she loved, she loved nature, being in the outdoors and spending time with her kids.”

Martinez said his sister, a spa owner, visited Eagle Falls often to find “serenity.”

“She was a mother figure to all her siblings and was raising one of her youngest sisters as she had done with several other siblings,” he wrote. “…Her children were her world and we want to try and give them everything that she would have...”

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