GRAND CANYON, Ariz. — Victoria Gizhyrova stood on inches-thin rock ledges, grasping the top of a South Rim cliff with one arm. Her friend, Pat Shearer, 56, reached out and pulled on her other arm.
The moment was captured Thursday on a cellphone for a photo that made Shearer appear to be saving Gizhyrova from plummeting.
“For Instagram,” said Gizhyrova, 29, of Chicago, only partly joking.
Two days after Cynthia Ackley, 69, died from a 200-foot fall from the Grand Canyon’s South Rim, park visitors still were edging as close as they could get to the open space.
Ackley's was the fourth death in the park this year and the third from a fall in the Grand Canyon over a span of almost four weeks. One of the three deaths was not in the national park but on the Hualapai reservation in Grand Canyon West.
Even though the string of deaths has grabbed headlines, the park teemed with visitors who lined up for shuttles to take them to the rim, several of whom left the trail and moved precariously close to drop-offs, usually to get a shocking photo. It wasn't clear if any of the previous deaths were related to people trying to take pictures.
But in the aftermath of the latest death, there are no new warning signs. On Thursday, park staff were not paying extra visits to Pipe Creek Vista — near where Ackley died — to warn thrill-seekers to back up from the rim’s edge.
“People walk behind the railings, over the top of railings, hang their feet over the edge. So more signs is not necessarily going to encourage more safety,” John Quinley, a National Parks Service spokesman, said.
Tourists who ventured close to the edge told NBC News they did not think they were putting themselves in danger, but did say they thought those who had fallen probably took stupid risks or weren’t paying attention.
After Gizhyrova staged her “falling-over-the-rim” photo, she tried do a handstand a few feet from the rim’s edge while her friend snapped photos.
She said she had measured how far from the edge, leaving herself room if she fell forward, toward the edge. She made no mention of momentum possibly carrying her further or off to the side.
“I am so scared,” she said as she pulled her second leg off the ground and above her head. In the end, she couldn’t push her legs up straight to complete the headstand.
“No,” she said, giving up. “I’m scared.”
Then she struck a one-legged standing yoga pose at about the same place.
She and her friends had stepped away from the paved path between Pipe Creek Vista and the turnoff for the Grand Canyon Visitors Center.
There are a few feet of dirt, trees and rocks spreading from the side of the path to the rim’s edge. Parts of the path are lined with blocks of rock. But the majestic canyon, with its ribbons of red and green, layered rock extending to the horizon, draws hikers off the path and closer to the surreal landscape.
Daphne Chou, 28, dropped to the ground with nervousness as she watched her husband, Shen Zang, 25, step off a rim ledge to a ledge below for a closer look.
She yelled at him in Chinese that he better not leave her at the park by herself as a warning that he could kill himself. But Zhang ignored her anxious pleas.