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Third death in three weeks at Grand Canyon

“People often visit parks without fully understanding what the risks are,” an advocate for national parks said.
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The body of a 67-year-old man was recovered at the Grand Canyon, the third visitor fatality in the area in the last three weeks, according to authorities.

Park rangers responded to a call shortly before noon Wednesday reporting that someone had fallen over the South Rim. The park's helicopter and technical rescue team recovered the man's body east of the Yavapai Geology Museum at about 2 p.m. local time.

A spokeswoman for the park did not identify the man but said he was from California.

The National Park Service and the Coconino County Medical Examiner are investigating the death, park officials said.

This was the first over-the-edge death this year inside the Grand Canyon National Park, which had 17 fatalities last year.

Two people died in the Grand Canyon area late last month in separate incidents, including one in which a man stumbled over the edge of the rim while trying to take pictures at Grand Canyon West, a popular tourist destination on the Hualapai reservation outside the boundaries of the national park.

There were more than 318 million recreational visits to national parks in 2018, according to the National Park Service. While that was down 3.8 percent from the 330 million the year before, it was still the third highest, behind 2016 and 2017.

Phil Francis, head of the Coalition to Protect America's National Parks, told NBC News last week there has been a “fairly dramatic" decline in the number of employees at parks.

“I know that the parks are trying to do everything they can, the question is how much can they actually do with limited resources,” Francis said.

Francis said it was very important for visitors to plan ahead and learn as much as possible about the parks, including the best times of year to visit and weather patterns like extreme heat or cold.

“People often visit parks without fully understanding what the risks are,” Francis said. Any potential visitors should “spend some time before they go to fully understand what the safety hazards may be and share that information with their family."

A spokeswoman for the park told NBC News on Thursday that the National Park Service encourages visitors to stay on marked trails and keep a safe distance from the edge.