California mother slips and plunges to death from Lake Tahoe waterfall while reaching for a tree branch
Press releases by authorities said the 35-year-old was sitting in one of the pools of water near the waterfall when she slipped and was washed away
A mother-of-three plunged to her death down a Northern California waterfall last week after she slipped and lost her footing.
According to the Associated Press, 35-year-old Stephanie Espinosa died on Friday, May 31, after she fell down Eagle Falls — from where the water cascades an estimated 150 feet — near North Tahoe.
A press release by the El Dorado County Sheriff's Office states that the 35-year-old was sitting in one of the pools of water near the waterfall when she slipped and was washed away while reaching for a branch. A search and rescue team later recovered her body.
The North Tahoe Fire Protection District spokeswoman Erin Holland similarly said in a statement following the accident that witnesses reported that Espinosa was too close to the edge of the area, which has no guardrail blocking access to it.
She said that conditions were especially dangerous because the very cold water feeding the waterfall was moving extremely fast because of snowmelt from record snowfall received in the surrounding Sierra Nevada mountains.
"Every year, there are deaths on our waterways and in our backcountry," a post by the district read. "Our message is to help visitors understand the dangers inherent to our beautiful region, and especially after this record winter, our creeks, rivers, waterfalls, and lake carry many dangers that visitors need to be aware of."
The report from the district seemed to indicate that Espinosa had fallen over while trying to taking a picture, with one line reading, "This is a sad reminder to be cautious when taking selfies and other photos in dangerous areas."
However, that assertion was questioned by her brother, Nick Martinez, who told CBS Sacramento, that the articles suggesting she had died while trying to take a selfie were "really disturbing."
"She was trying to enjoy the moment which is something she was a big advocate of," he explained. "It [the articles] really made Stephanie sound like she was a young girl who was just trying to take a selfie and fell off a cliff."
"When I go back to my furthest memory in life, it's with her," he added. "She is my older sister but has been more of a mother to me."
A GoFundMe page set up to raise money for her funeral and her family describes her as a "strong" and "centered" person who was "always positive, optimistic, appreciative and caring, a free spirit." It said she "gave everything for those that she loved" and that she "loved nature, being in the outdoors and spending time with her kids."
According to the page, Espinosa left behind two teenage sons, Junior and Ruben, and a daughter, Marissa. It has raised $3,475 of a possible $20,000 goal at the time of writing.