A 16-year-old girl died while saving her younger sister from plunging over the Rainbow Falls waterfall in North Carolina on the Fourth of July

By Dave Quinn
July 06, 2018 02:45 PM
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A 16-year-old girl died while saving her younger sister from plunging over the Rainbow Falls waterfall in North Carolina on the Fourth of July. She’s the second person to die at the 125-foot waterfall within a two-week period.

The body of H’Money Siu, of Charlotte, was recovered by a dive team at around 4 p.m. local time on Wednesday, Lake Toxaway Deputy Fire Chief Bobby Cooper told PEOPLE.

Around four hours earlier, H’Money was swimming in a pool of the Horsepasture River at the top of Rainbow Falls with her 11-year-old sister when the current began to drag the younger Siu sibling away.

H’Money was able to pull her sister to the safety of adults also on the trip, Cooper said. But the current dragged her over the falls in the process.

The sisters were on a hike in the Pisgah National Forest with a group of nearly 25 people. Authorities were notified of the incident around noon.

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Credit: bobsistraveling/Flickr

According to Cooper, nearly 45 rescuers from the county came together to help recover H’Money’s body. She was found in a pool of water below the falls, with blunt trauma from the fall onto the rocks.

There are 245 different waterfalls in Transylvania County — the largest, Whitewater Falls, is about 485 feet, Cooper said. Accessibility to each differs, he said.

Signage is up throughout warning about the dangers of the falls, Cooper added. They’ve also devoted a number of resources to education about waterfall safety, including flyers hung in public bathrooms, handouts given to hikers and a whole page dedicated to the issue on North Carolina State Parks’ website.

“Never play in the stream or river above a waterfall. You can easily be swept over the falls by currents,” the website reads. “Watch children carefully. Children should always be under the immediate supervision of adults when visiting any falls. Pets should also be supervised. They can easily underestimate the slickness of rocks and the flow of water.”

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This is the fifth time someone has died this summer at one of the region’s waterfalls. The last was John Shaffer, 42, of Charleston, South Carolina, who died on June 23.

Shaffer was on a hike with his wife and their dog when the pet wandered close to Rainbow Falls. “The dog got into the water and got in trouble,” Lake Toxaway Fire Chief Carmon West told PEOPLE. “The man got into the water to get the dog and they both fell over.”

Fire officials responded to the scene a half hour later and found Shaffer’s body within 20 minutes, West told PEOPLE. However, due to the rough terrain, it took rescue teams six hours to recover the man’s body.

West said Shaffer died of blunt force trauma to the body, adding that the man’s wife was in a state of shock. “She was in a state of disbelief,” West told PEOPLE. “She didn’t want to believe what had just happened. She was stable emotionally, but didn’t want to believe what happened.”