Taylor Terrell, a news anchor for 41NBC News at Daybreak and 41Today, died while celebrating her 25th birthday in a tragic freak accident Thursday after falling 185 feet off of Rainbow Falls, officials said. As part of her birthday festivities, Terrell and a friend visited Rainbow Falls, a 150-foot-tall waterfall in North Carolina’s Pisgah National Forest inside the Great Smoky Mountains.
“It’s a real dangerous spot,” Transylvania County Chief Deputy Eddie Gunter said. “We usually have about two to three waterfall deaths up there every year. That was the seventh (waterfall-related death) we’ve had in our county this year. Transylvania County has a lot of waterfalls.”
Check out the video report about the tragedy below.
As the website notes, Great Smoky Mountains are “world renowned for its diversity of plant and animal life, the beauty of its ancient mountains, and the quality of its remnants of Southern Appalachian mountain culture, this is America’s most visited national park.”
— Carlos Scott (@NVisionMarketin) July 24, 2016
Terrell started as an intern at 41NBC in 2013 following her graduation from Georgia Southern University, according to a biography on the station’s website. The Grio reports that she was eventually promoted to reporter and later promoted to weekend anchor.
“Taylor was a hard worker with a bright smile. She rose through the ranks from intern to reporter, to weekend anchor, to morning anchor and was eager to prepare for her next chapter,” News Director Brandon Long wrote in an email to the Telegraph. “This is a devastating loss for us here at 41NBC and most definitely for her family.”
The investigation into Taylor’s tragic death is being handled by the U.S. Forest Service, said Cathy Dowd, a forest service public affairs officer.
“[Terrell] was wading in the river near the top of the falls (when) she lost her footing and fell into the water where the current swept her up and over the falls,” Dowd said. “Her body was recovered at the base of the falls.”
The station released this statement regarding her death.
“Taylor was scheduled to be off today to celebrate her 25th birthday. Instead, we’re remembering her spirit, her optimism, and her work. She touched so many people through her stories, through interviews here at the station on Daybreak and 41Today, and through the people she met while working with different volunteer groups as she tried to make a difference in people’s lives.”
— Xi Tau Miss B&G (@xitaumissbg) July 22, 2016
According to the website, “Motor vehicle accidents and drownings are the leading causes of death.”
Visitors are warned that “[t]here are no life-guarded swimming areas in the park. Swimming and tubing are not recommended. Never try to climb to the top of a waterfall. The rocks are coated with slippery algae, and several hikers have been killed.”
The site also breakdowns the average number of injuries and deaths in the park each year.
- Motor vehicle accidents – 50
- Walking or hiking accidents – 38
- Bicycle accidents – 16
- Falls from waterfalls – 9
- Horse related – 7
- Tubing related – 5
- Bee Sting reaction – 4
The U.S. Forest Service says the best way to enjoy a waterfall is from a safe distance and to heed posted warning signs to never play or climb on or around waterfalls, reports WLOS.
— Jeremy Pierre FOX13 (@JeremypierreFOX) July 22, 2016
“Hi, I’m at Rainbow Falls. My friend got caught by the current, and I don’t know where she is, and I can’t find her,” said a caller into 911 on Thursday after the Georgia news anchor lost her footing and was swept over the falls by the current.
Crews recovered Taylor’s body around 8:30 p.m. Thursday evening.
Taylor Terrell died a day before her 25th birthday, and family, friends, colleagues, and those she inspired in the community continue to honor her memory on social media.
[Image via Shutterstock]