Four people have died in recent years at a beautiful spot in the wilderness of New York’s Catskills Mountains.
100 miles north of Manhattan lies a beautiful spot called Kaaterskill Falls, where thundering water cascades off the face of a rocky cliff in lush green surroundings. It’s a picture-perfect place, which has prompted many social media lovers to visit and snap photos for their feeds. In fact, 100,000 visitors check out the falls each year, seeing the famous waterfall up close and personal in all its glory.
Unfortunately, sometimes people get too close. In the past few years, four people, including 17-year-old Ezra Kennedy and 30-year-old Anthony Meile, have plummeted to their deaths, prompting safety concerns.
Now, state officials are looking into revamping safety measures at the location in an effort to end the tragedies caused by snapping photos too close to the slippery edge. 25 years ago, the waterfalls saw only 10,000 visitors, so there’s been a huge increase in the past few years, sparked in part by the rise of social media and the desire to take amazing photos at the natural wonder. Officials estimate as many as 1,000 people head to the area on weekends alone during the summer season.
Kennedy, just a teenager with his whole life ahead of him, was climbing in the area in pursuit of a phenomenal photo two years ago when he fell to his death.
‘I think he just went out a little too far and it didn’t appear to be slippery. But it was,’ his heartbroken mother told the New York Times.
Just months later in November 2016, Anthony Meile died at the waterfall, too. He was aged just 30.
Over the course of the past four years, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has developed new plans to minimize the number of fatalities, including the addition of a 200-step stone stairway that leads visitors safely down to a pool. Although the area was not originally part of the trail, many visitors still ventured off-the-beaten track. One man, Pastor Gary Rankin, miraculously survived when he fell 70 feet from the area where the steps are now. He had to relearn how to walk and talk after suffering serious injures.
In total, eight people have died at Kaaterskill Falls since 1992. Half of those victims have been officially linked to attempts at snapping pics for Instagram. Technically, visitors are not permitted to go beyond 150 feet up to enter the waterfall’s stream, or go within six feet of the cliff’s edge. That doesn’t stop many from venturing beyond the boundaries to take photos, sadly.
The area currently has a viewing platform, warning signs, hand rails and a bridge, but some people worry that’s not enough. The state government has invested $1.25 million in making sure the Kaaterskill Wild Forest as a whole is safe for visitors. This includes the expansion of two parking lots to stop cars from packing into prohibited areas, as well as safer and more secure paths.