20-year-old U.S. Tourist Falls to Her Death at Masada

Initial accounts indicate that Briana McHam of Pompano Beach, Florida, fell from a height of more than 25 feet and suffered from dehydration due to the severe heat.

Shirly Seidler
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Briana McHam, on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. Photo taken from her Facebook page.
Shirly Seidler

A 20-year-old American tourist died Tuesday after falling from a path at Masada, the popular tourist destination near the Dead Sea.  

Magen David Adom personnel arrived on the scene and found her without respiration or pulse. After attempts to resuscitate failed, she was declared dead at the scene. An MDA paramedic on the scene said that the woman was found unconscious and had signs of dehydration and severe injuries.

Masada, near the site of the U.S. tourist's fatal fall, May 19, 2015.Credit: Shirly Seidler

Initial accounts indicate that the woman fell from a height of 8 meters (26 feet), and that she waited for aid for a long time while suffering from dehydration due to the severe heat. The Israel Police are investigating the circumstances surrounding the incident. 

The woman was part of a group of students and alumni of Florida State University on an Israel trip. Police did not release the woman's name, but the university named her as Briana McHam of Pompano Beach, Florida.They were accompanied by a group leader who was not a licensed guide. 

Masada National Park closes the main hiking trail up and down the mountain, the Snake Path if the weather becomes too hot. Due to Monday's extreme heat, the Snake Path was closed at 11 A.M. However, a group had apparently begun to descend at about 10:45 –The young woman who died started down with two companions but she became separated from them and went off the marked trail into a wadi. 

Park director Eitan Campbell told Haaretz: “The group went down before the path closed to make to the bottom in time, and when they reached the visitor center, the group leader realized that the young woman was not with them, and a search began that lasted an hour and a half.” According to Campbell, park personnel found the woman in a wadi. “At the moment it is important to us to understand whether she fell or collapsed due to dehydration. In any case, the heat was a key factor.”

According to Campbell, 1,300 visitors come to Masada National Park every day, and there were many visitors yesterday as well. “It is rare for such a thing to happen. We had a meeting and we will see what lessons can be learned.”