Thelma & Louise Redux? Man Drives Car Off South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park

An unidentified man apparently drove his car off the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park. NPS photo.

An unidentified man died Monday when he apparently drove his car off the South Rim of the Grand Canyon and plummeted about 600 feet to the rocky slope below.

At about 6 a.m. Monday several calls were made to the Grand Canyon Regional Communications Center to report that a car had driven over the edge near the El Tovar Hotel in Grand Canyon National
Park.

Upon arriving at the scene, investigators found tire tracks leading to the edge behind the Thunderbird Lodge and received reports of a single occupant in a blue passenger car driving over the edge.

Rescue personnel descended on ropes and located the vehicle approximately 600 feet below the rim. The body of a lone male was located shortly thereafter. Plans for retrieval of the body and the vehicle were being made.

An investigation into the incident is being conducted by the National Park Service.

Comments

Holy sh*t!!! This is both sad and scary at the same time. Has anything like this ever happened before?

I think it's happened a few times, and not only in Grand Canyon. A few people have driven over the edge in Death Valley...usually they aren't found until the military flies overhead. I've often wondered why people love to commit suicide in the parks.

The famous/infamous scene from Thelma and Louise was shot at Dead Horse State Park, located just outside of Moab Utah. If you have never been you should go. It rivals the Grand Canyon.

See above...sorry for the double post.

Over the Edge: Death in Grand Canyon is a book (I believe there are other "Death in ..." titles as well) that literally goes through every death recorded inside of the park boundaries. Sadly, as RangerLady mentioned, suicide in our parks is not all that unusual. I believe the author had theories as to why that is; perhaps I'll have to get the book back out and read up on his thoughts.

After looking, it appears that through 2003, there were eleven suicides in nine different cars in park history, ranging back to the late 60's. This was just looking in the suicide chapter...if I recall correctly, there have been multiple accidents involving cars as well, from parents forgetting to set the brake, and having their children roll off the edge, and even people becoming disoriented in parking lots and going the wrong direction. This story above says nothing about suicide, and I'm not trying to infer anything...I just looked in that chapter, because I remember that as being the highest concentration of such accidents.

It was a fascinating book, and written very tastefully. It is a great resource for someone interested in the history of the area, as it not only gives you stories of tourist, hiker, and rafter accidents, which we can all learn from, but it does a great job of mixing in "real" history, the stuff you'd hear from the rangers, or read about in exhibits. Stories of Powell and early river explorers, the Hyde couple, the skeleton of the "Tanner Man" from 1000-1200 AD, and stories of early explorers who met their maker in the Canyon, such as man who Mooney Falls is named after.

Also, as I mentioned, there are books under the same "Death in ..." title for at least a few other major parks, which I would assume are equally as informative and well-written.

I used to work at the Canyon, if he drove over the edge near the El Trovar, it obviously was no accident. It would take a pretty good clip to go through the ledges wall....The accident plus the clean-up will undoubtly cause quite a bit of damage to the terrain and will probably close the Bright Angel Trail for a while.

Captain, folks at the park tell me that the driver somehow found a spot without the short wall, so no damage there.

I hope nobody gets hurt cleaning up after this guy.

He probably found out how much the El Tovar charges for a room...

My husband and I had the wonderful, awesome opportunity to visit the Grand Canyon park last September for our birthdays.
As sad as this man's story is, and his resulting death, I wonder how a vehicle tumbling down the walls of the canyon
have affected the canyon itself that took millions of years to form. And how will fluids, gases, etc. effect the
wildlife of the canyon.

Editor's note: This comment was edited to remove disparaging remarks. While we struggle to understand suicide, and often find it repugnant and inexcusable, we also don't know what demons those who take their own lives are grappling with.

Captain, folks at the park tell me that the driver somehow found a spot without the short wall, so no damage there.

WHEW!!! There is at least one bright spot!!!

I am amazed at the callousness of people when a tragedy occurs, and often wonder if these people would say some of the things they do "in person", so to speak. The despair of a person to commit suicide is not something to compare to whatever possible damage the car may done to an infinitesimal speck of the Grand Canyon.

I was born and raised at the Grand Canyon 36 years of my life. I worked at the Grand Canyon Clinic and know of alot of fatalities. Whether accidental, suicidal or just plain stupidity hiking and not being prepared. I worked with two of the most wonderful and best physicians Dr.Wurgler and Dr. Tom Myers who is the Author of "Over the Edge."
What this guy did is not a surprise to me, however where he did drive off is. The location, there are many people from visitors, locals, employees who walk, jog that busy path to and from lodges, curios and look out points. Just 3 weeks ago my daughter got married at that same location the El Tovar Patio where many events occur.

For some reason people who want to take their life, decide to jump or drive off the Grand Canyon is the way to go. Well... will all never know will we???? Only that individual. Who attempts and succeeds. Pretty sad, such a wonder of Beauty and Peacefulness, maybe this is why they do it? A touch of Heaven the Grand Canyon is in my eyes.

Just got back from Dead Horse a week ago. I had never been, mistakenly thinking "Well, it's a state park, so it can't be as beautiful as Canyonlands, the national park". Boy was I ever in for a shock. It's a miniature Grand Canyon and one of the most beautiful places in the Moab area. Also checked out Professor Valley, where John Ford filmed "Wagonmaster" and "Rio Grande", ANOTHER surprise, a little gem of a valley tucked away near Moab.

Toldes, ssshhhhhhhhhhh!;-)

Another great state park in Utah is Snow Canyon, to the southwest of Zion. Gorgeous. Simply gorgeous.

I just experienced Snow Canyon for the first time in June. Hiked the Hidden Pinyon Trail; didn't have time for others. It was a high point of my visit. I have to say I liked it better than Zion. So different from the Pacific NW where I hail from.

We were camped at the Mather Campground on the south rim when this happened and the NPS set off a very loud siren for about 5 minutes. It woke everyone in the caqmpground up and we were all wondering what had happened. I talked to a ranger later in the day and she said she knew of only one other instance in the last 18 years (how long she had worked there) where a vehicle went over the edge. She was amazed that an open spot had been found. She told us the other incident took place near Desert View where a man lifted his motorcycle over the rail and was setting it up so he could take his Christmas pictures and the bike fell over and tumbled off the edge, thankfully without the owner.

Capt. Ardy said this may effect the Bright Angel Trail. It's a little further to the west and will likely have no impact.

I hiked the Bright Angel Trail two days after this with no problems. I heard this guy dumped gas all over himself and in the vehical before he drove off. It is sad that this kind of thing happens. It would have been tragic if anyone specialy kids where hit by the car tumbling down over the trail. Also heard of a guy jumping out of a helicopter to his death....some time this year.

This man has been identified. NPS report below:

The body of a man who drove his car over the edge of the Grand Canyon last week has been identified as that of Gheorghe Chiriac of Apple Valley, California. Park dispatch received numerous reports that a car had been driven over the edge near the El Tovar Hotel on the South Rim around 6 a.m. on Monday, July 13th. Upon arriving at the scene, rangers found tire tracks indicating that a car had been driven up onto the curb of the loading area between the El Tovar Hotel and the Kachina Lodge. The car then veered left, traveling through the grass behind Kachina Lodge until it reached the Thunderbird Lodge, where it veered right and into the canyon. As the car had traveled a significant distance from the regular roadway, there was no wall or barrier where it went over the edge. Rescue personnel descended on ropes and located the vehicle approximately 600 feet below the rim. The man’s body was found shortly thereafter. After the scene was documented, the body was transported to the rim by helicopter via long-line operation and then picked up by the Coconino County medical examiner. The body has now been identified as that of 57-year-old Gheorghe Chiriac, who emigrated from Romania approximately 30 years ago. His death has been ruled a suicide.

Ranger Holly
http://web.me.com/hollyberry

I was at the canyon that day. It was 6:15 am and I had just dropped my husband and son at the Bright Angel trailhead and was walking east toward the El Tovar. There were rangers everywhere and they were stringing up the crime scene tape.

There was no possible way for this to have been an accident. The area where the car came through between the lodge buildings was narrow and there was a good amount of landscaping, rocks, curbs, posts, etc. to prevent someone accidently driving through there. The tire tracks in the grass and on the path clearly showed no hesitation, wavering or braking in traveling to the rim. He also must have planned this carefully as there are few places where there are no walls to have crashed through.

What I don't understand is why he chose an area with so many people around where he could have caused so much damage to others. There are m-i-l-e-s of road near the edge where he could have easily taken his own life without endangering the lives of others.