HomeOutdoorsNewsGraduate student drowns in Glacier National Park

Graduate student drowns in Glacier National Park

by Jon D. B.
Glacier National Park water safety
Glacier National Park water safety image. (Photo credit: Glacier National Park, NPS Photo)

The University of Kansas student had just finished the first year of her master’s degree and was on a celebratory trip to Glacier National Park.

On the afternoon of Monday, May 22, 2023, the 28-year-old woman fell off a rocky overhang into the park’s Avalanche Creek. She was swept into the gorge, then spotted passing under the bridge of Trail of the Cedars by bystanders.

Good Samaritans waded into the water to pull her out and immediately began CPR. Others were sent people to notify Glacier National Park rangers and call 911. Flathead County Dispatch received and diverted the call to park dispatch. NPS staff, ALERT and Three Rivers Ambulance mobilized after learning about the incident.

Tragically, the Kansas student was declared deceased by ALERT personnel at the side of the creek. Rangers carried her out to Avalanche Lake Trailhead where she was then transferred to funeral services.

Today, May 26, Glacier National Park has released the identity of the student. The late Atheer Abdulrahman S. Alquahtani was a resident of Lawrence, Kansas. She came to the U.S. from Saudi Arabia for college, and was continuing into her master’s.

Friends of Alquahtani tell park officials that the University of Kansas student “was on a road trip tour of national parks to celebrate” when the unthinkable happened.

Those who knew her in life also describe her as a “risk taker who loved getting in and being near water.”

Outsider sends our sincerest condolences to the family and friends of Alquahtani at this time. Law enforcement investigators say there are no indications of foul play.

As the park notes in their media release, the area where this incident occurred is off-trail. “Many visitors take the same risk.”

Historically, water related incidents like this are the number one cause of death at Glacier National Park. Visitors should take extra precautions when approaching areas with water, especially during spring runoff.

As their name implies, the waters of Glacier National Park are extremely cold year-round. “Children, photographers, boaters, rafters, swimmers, and fishermen have fallen victim to these rapidly flowing, frigid streams and glacial lakes,” the park laments.

In the safety section of their website, Glacier explains that “Sudden immersion in cold water (below 80 °F, 27 °C) may trigger the mammalian diving reflex. This reflex restricts blood from outer extremities of the body and routes it to vital organs like the heart, lungs, and brain.”

Please keep your own safety in mind when trying to help someone drowning, the park also asks. Think ‘reach, throw, go’:

  • Can you reach the person with a stick?
  • Can you throw a rope or throw-bag toward them?
  • Finally, is it also safe to retrieve this person by getting in the water yourself?
  • Always wear a personal floatation device (PFD)

Visit Glacier National Park’s Safety Page for more information.

To learn more about the park, see our Glacier National Park Breakdown.