Officials have now said that a woman who died while hiking Oregon’s Multnomah Falls in August fell after she lost her footing.
Officials found the Minnesota woman, 62-year-old Jessica Warejoncas, dead near Wiesendanger Falls on Aug. 19. The waterfall is about 1.3 miles upstream from Multnomah Falls.
Hiker veered-off trail moments before falling
Witnesses later told search and rescue officials that Warejoncas went off the trail to avoid stepping on a section of loose gravel. As a result, she lost her footing while g up the switchbacks near the waterfall, according to the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office.
In addition, that section of the Larch Mountain Trail narrows as it ascends above the 50-foot Weisendanger Falls. It’s also marred by a sudden drop-off on one side and a steep hill or sheer cliff wall on the other.
The sheriff’s office initially reported that Warejoncas fell 100 feet. However, further investigation revealed the fall to be about 50 to 75 feet, spokesperson Chris Liedle said.
Officials also say understanding the details of incidents like this can be challenging. For example, forensic evidence like footprints, fallen debris, or items left behind only tell a fraction of a story. In addition, eyewitness accounts might not necessarily be reliable.
Officials also initially reported that the victim was hiking with others when she fell, but it was unclear whether the witnesses who spoke with search and rescue teams were part of her group.
Officials reveal challenges of piecing together details in hiking tragedies
Liedle also said the witnesses were unfamiliar with the area, which could lead to the inaccuracy of their reports.
“Witness statements are also based on their familiarity with an area and memory, which is often tested during a very traumatic event. All these factors can lead to some ambiguity,” Liedle said. “Our team does its best to piece all the fragments into a complete, or more complete story.”
In addition, Liedle said that investigators haven’t been able to give details about the 20-year-old hiker named Kriss Arturo Garcia, who tragically died just days after Warejoncas on a nearby trail, simply because they don’t know what happened.
The sheriff’s office said that search and rescue teams spent over 22 hours recovering the body of Kriss Arturo Garcia. The hiker was found at the bottom of an embankment less than three miles from the Angels Rest Trailhead.
However, investigators have reason to believe Garcia was g alone when he met his tragic fate. They also determined that there was no foul play in his death.
“To date, no one has come forward to say they witnessed the actual fall. So there just isn’t information available to determine what led up to the fall,” Liedle said.