Parents of Florida Woman Who Fell to Her Death at Grand Canyon Reveal 'Fearless' Daughter's Last Words
"It put a chill through my body," Catherine Burns says of the last photo her daughter ever took
The parents of a 35-year-old woman who fell to her death at the Grand Canyon the day after posting a photo on the edge of a cliff at the national park say she “was not afraid of anything” and knew how to “live life to the fullest.”
Colleen Burns of Orlando, Florida, was hiking with friends near the iconic park’s South Kaibab Trail on Friday when she tried to make room on the path for a fellow hiker and slipped off Ooh Aah Point, Grand Canyon National park officials tell PEOPLE.
Park rangers discovered her body 400 feet below where she was standing. Coconino County Public Health Service’s Medical Examiner’s Office tells PEOPLE she died from “multiple blunt force injuries.”
“I saw the last photo she posted before she died, where she is looking at the canyon, and it put a chill through my body because I’m afraid of heights and I was afraid for her,” Colleen’s mother, Catherine Burns, tells PEOPLE. “I shut down my computer because it freaked me out so much.
“And then the next day we lost her.”
Catherine vividly remembers the last conversation she had with Colleen – it was the day before her daughter left for the Grand Canyon on a “great adventure” with her friends.
“I always worry about her like a typical mother, so I was asking her questions about her travel and safety and stuff,” she says. “It ended up being a deep conversation. The last thing she said to me was, ‘Mom, I’m content in my life I want to travel and see the world.’ ”
Catherine was preparing to move from Morton, Pennsylvania, to Orlando to be closer to her daughter when she died.
“I was just so proud of her,” Catherine says of Colleen, who was a regional marketing director for Yelp. “She was excited about her impact on those who worked for her. She said she had the best job in the world. She thought of the people she managed as her students and friends, not employees.”
Catherine says her daughter had a “constant sparkle” that captivated those around her.
“She had so much love to give the world,” she says through tears. “She wanted everyone to be kinder and to be their best.”
Colleen’s father, Jim Burns, hopes others hiking the Grand Canyon pay attention to trail rules and regulations.
“I never realized how many deaths occur at the Grand Canyon,” Jim tells PEOPLE. “People have to be very careful not to take chances and crowds cannot gather. Multiple people can’t gather on the path if it’s not big enough, which is how she died. If the path is meant for a single person, two people can’t be on it.”
He says he doesn’t want his daughter’s tragic death to discourage people from enjoying the outdoors – but to be “safe while living life.”
“She was the type of person who wasn’t afraid of anything or to do something new,” he says. “Her thinking was, ‘You only have one life and as long as nobody gets hurt, I want to go on adventures.’
“She loved sunsets and sunrises. This was just a freak accident.”
Jim and Catherine say their daughter’s body will be returned to them on Wednesday and she will be cremated after a gathering at Pennsylvania’s Springfield Country Club on Saturday.
“We are having a celebration of her life, she would have wanted that,” says Jim. “We just loved her so much and she was an amazing, amazing woman.
“We couldn’t have asked for anything more from her, except more time.”
In a joint message to PEOPLE, Jim and Catherine say they hope others will “pay it forward in Colleen’s memory and spread their own sparkle. “