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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

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.


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.

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

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.

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

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.

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.

Toldes, ssshhhhhhhhhhh!;-)

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

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.

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