Parents 'Desperately Tried to Rescue' Daughter, 3, Before She Was Swept Over 411-Foot Waterfall

Nevaeh Jade Newswanger, 3, died on Sunday when she fell over Whitewater Falls in North Carolina

Neveah Newswanger
Photo: GoFundMe

The parents of a 3-year-old girl who died when she fell over a waterfall say she was a "piece of heaven" to everyone who knew her.

On Sunday, Nevaeh Jade Newswanger and her family were visiting Whitewater Falls in North Carolina for a hiking trip when the young girl "slipped and fell in the water" while playing in the nearby sand, a GoFundMe set up for the family says.

Though her parents did their best to retrieve her, Neveah was carried by the powerful current down the waterfall and later found dead, the page explains.

"We desperately tried to rescue her but the current was so strong and it swept her down the river and over the falls where the angels caught her," her parents, Keith and Sheri Newswanger, said in a message on the donation page.

"She is now our precious angel, so radiant in the presence of God," they added. "Her name is heaven spelled backwards. She was truly a piece of heaven to all who knew her."

The GoFundMe campaign has raised nearly $6,000 for Neveah's funeral as of Tuesday afternoon.

In a statement sent to PEOPLE, the Jackson County Sheriff's Office said emergency responders from five different counties were dispatched to Whitewater Falls to help locate Nevaeh at the time of the accident.

Whitewater Falls

The teams eventually found her dead, trapped in an area of the waterfall, according to the outlet. They retrieved her body around 1 a.m. Monday morning.

"First and foremost our prayers are with the Newswanger Family as they grieve the loss of this precious young child," Jackson County Sheriff Chip Hall said.

"With the onset of spring weather we need to be reminded of the dangers associated with many scenic areas of the region such as waterfalls," he added. "While beautiful to view from a safe distance, venturing out closer to the falls for any reason brings tremendous danger. Always remain at a distance, follow safety precautions and warnings which are in place, and view waterfalls from designated viewing areas."

Nevaeh was from Pennsylvania, but the family has recently been living in Oconee County, South Carolina, the sheriff's office said.

On the hiking review website AllTrails, several visitors describe one of the Whitewater Falls hikes as "strenuous" and "moderately hard." The United States Department of Agriculture says the waterfall has a 411-foot plunge.

The department asks visitors to stay on the trails, even if they would like to get a better look at the area.

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"The best views of the falls are from the two overlooks. However, some people venture off the trail to try for better views. Tragically, several of these people fell to their deaths or suffered serious injuries at Whitewater Falls," they warn. "Please stay on the trails."

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