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Teenager falls 30 feet to her death from cliff while hiking in Utah

Residents of a small eastern Utah community are grieving after authorities say a 17-year-old girl fell to her death from a cliff during a hike with friends on Friday. 

Zoe McKinney, of Moab, was a student in her senior year of high school who had planned to cheer at a Saturday basketball game where her brother would play, CBS affiliate KUTV reported. McKinney's loved ones and friends gathered at the trail where police say she fell 30 feet from "a sheer cliff face" to lay flowers in her honor, according to the station. Moab, with a residential population of just over 5,300 people, is a popular tourist spot because of its close proximity to some of the country's most famous national parks.

McKinney fell at around 4 p.m. on Friday afternoon, while she and a group of friends hiked along one route through the area's scenic Kane Creek Canyon called Moab Rim Trail, police said. The trail, described by the Bureau of Land Management as "a very tough and popular Jeep trail that is also adored by hikers," offers a panoramic view of the Moab Valley, Arches National Park and the LaSal Mountains.

People placed flowers along the hiking trail in Moab, Utah, where 17-year-old Zoe McKinney fell to her death on Friday afternoon. Arielle Harrison, KUTV

"Tragically, a 17 year old female somehow slipped and fell approximately 30 feet off of a sheer cliff face," the Moab City Police Department said in a news release, confirming McKinney's death on Friday. "Friends called 911 and attempted to find a way to get to the victim, but there was no safe way to do so."

Police officers responded to the scene alongside personnel from the sheriff's office, fire department, county search and rescue and emergency medical services teams, authorities said, adding that they "worked vigorously to climb to the area above the victim." Responders used "harnesses and climbing gear with ropes" to reach McKinney, who was pronounced dead at the scene from injuries sustained in the fall, according to police.

"Moab Police Department wants to extend our heartfelt condolences to her family and friends," the department said in a statement. "We recognize the devastating impact the loss of a beloved young woman and friend has in this small community, but know that the wonderful people of Moab will band together to support and comfort her family and friends at this time."

McKinney was later identified in a statement released by the local Grand County High School, where the teenager had been enrolled. 

"The purpose of this statement is to inform you that this afternoon a 17 year old high school student, Zoe McKinney, passed away,"  the high school wrote on Facebook. "The school community is grieving with Zoe's family and will provide love and support in any way we we can, including having therapists available at school on Monday. Zoe was a remarkable student and we will honor her memory throughout the remainder of this senior year."

A staff member at the school has since created "Zoe Strong" t-shirts, which are available for purchase on its apparel website. Nearly all of the proceeds will benefit McKinney's family, according to the site description. A GoFundMe campaign has also been launched to collect donations for the family's funeral expenses. The campaign received nearly $12,000 of its $15,000 goal as of Monday morning.

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