Andrea Norton was visiting Ozark National Forest with classmates when the fun outing took a turn for the worst

By Char Adams
April 16, 2019 02:07 PM
Andrea Norton
Briar Cliff University

A 20-year-old college student died on Saturday after falling about 100 feet off a cliff at Arkansas’ Ozark National Forest during a class activity, PEOPLE confirms.

Andrea Norton, a junior at Iowa’s Briar Cliff University, was visiting the forest with classmates when she fell around 9:30 a.m., according to the Newton County Sheriff’s Office. More than 60 emergency personnel responded to the scene and worked to recover Norton’s body, authorities said.

“Norton was apparently moving from one are of the [Hawksbill] Crag to another when she lost her footing and fell approximately one hundred feet,” authorities said in a statement. “The fall proved to be fatal.”

Some outlets have said Norton was trying to take a photo when she fell from the popular hiking destination, CBS News noted, but Norton’s mother, Tamara Norton — who did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment — has denied the claims, saying that a previous ankle injury may have caused Norton’s fall.

Newton County Sheriff Glenn Wheeler said the incident marked the department’s second call out to the area this year, “and the season is just beginning,” he said in the police statement.

“We are, once again, reminded of how dangerous these wild places can be. Hawksbill Crag is a spectacular location that thousands of people visit and enjoy each year,” Wheeler said.

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“But, one stumble or misstep is all it can take to turn a great day into a tragic one,” he added. “I want everyone to enjoy our county, but use extreme caution and respect how dangerous these places can be. I don’t want any other families going through what Andrea’s family is now facing.”

Leslie Heying, a spokesperson for Briar Cliff University, confirmed the death to PEOPLE.

“Andrea embodied BCU’s values in everything she did including her compassion for all, a love for the environment and an openness to everyone she met,” Heying said in a statement. “Our deepest condolences and prayers go out to Andrea’s family and friends during this very difficult time. Counselors are currently assisting Briar Cliff students, faculty, staff and all who knew Andrea.”

Norton, from Hot Springs, South Dakota, was part of the school’s volleyball team. Her teammates remembered Norton in a moving tweet.

“We are saddened by the unexpected passing of our beloved teammate Andrea Norton. #22 on the court, #1 in our hearts,” the tweet reads. “Thank you for the prayers, calls, texts and emails.”

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