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CODY, Wyoming (Reuters) - Search teams on Friday recovered the body of an 18-year-old woman who plunged 400 feet to her death on the first day of her job at Yellowstone National Park when a rocky ledge overlooking a canyon gave way beneath her, officials said.
The woman, whose identity was being withheld pending notification of her family, arrived in the park on Thursday to begin a new job with a private concessions company in Yellowstone, park spokesman Dan Hottle said.
She and three others went hiking early that evening along the edge of a popular canyon called the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. They had ventured onto an off-trail promontory at a spot called Inspiration Point when the accident happened.
A member of the hiking party used a cell phone to alert park authorities, who dispatched a rescue team that later reported spotting a badly mangled figure about 400 feet below the north rim of the 1,500-foot-deep canyon, officials said.
Rescuers concluded the woman could not have survived the fall. With nightfall advancing, search teams returned on Friday and retrieved the body in a three-hour helicopter operation.
Hottle said another member of the hiking party narrowly averted tumbling down the cliff.
"The 18 year old was sitting on a ledge when the rock fell away. Someone was standing right behind her and, miraculously, didn't fall," he said.
Fatal falls are relatively rare at Yellowstone, accounting for fewer than a dozen deaths - among millions of visitors - over the past 30 years.
Reporting by Ruffin Prevost; Additional reporting and writing by Laura Zuckerman; Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis, Steve Gorman and Lisa Shumaker