Nfld. & Labrador

Woman dead after falling from Cape Spear cliff in Newfoundland and Labrador

A 53-year-old woman has died after falling from a cliff in Newfoundland and Labrador on Saturday morning.

Responders were called to the scene between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. NT

Pat Thompson said he took this photo right before leaving Cape Spear, to show his wife how close people were to the edge of the cliff. (Submitted by Pat Thompson)

A 53-year-old woman has died after falling from a Cape Spear cliff in Newfoundland and Labrador on Saturday morning.

She fell about 50 feet to a rock ledge and then tumbled off that ledge another 100 feet, said Pat Power, a St. John's captain with the fire department. 

Cape Spear, which is near St. John's, is the most easterly point in continental North America and is a popular destination for tourists.

Acting fire lieutenant Steve Erbland, left, and fire captain Pat Power say incidents at Cape Spear are far too common. (Andrew Sampson/CBC)

Emergency crews got a call about the incident at about 6 a.m. NT, according to a release sent by the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary.

Power said it took crews from the high angle rescue team nearly four hours to retrieve the woman's body.

"It was very tricky conditions out there where it was a bit slick from the dew this morning," he said. 

The woman and her sister were visiting the province from Chicago and were at Cape Spear to watch the sunrise, he said.

When the woman fell, her sister was standing a little farther back. 

"She was very distraught. She's here the whole while. We had a psychologist come in and have a word with her," Power said.

Unusual crowd at popular spot

St. John's resident Pat Thompson said he was at Cape Spear to take some pictures when a large number of people started to arrive at the popular spot. Around 6 a.m., he said he packed up his camera and walked back to his car.

"But I did take a photo of all these people at the edge of the cliff because it was sort of stuck in my mind how close they all were to the cliff," he said. 

Cape Spear is Canada's most easterly point.

Minutes later, as he was driving to another vantage point at Blackhead, he said emergency vehicles went racing past him, heading toward Cape Spear.

Thompson said he often goes to Cape Spear to take photos in the early morning light and that he was quite surprised to see so many people there so early in the morning. 

All too common

Power said that in his 37 years as a member of the fire department, he's seen far too many similar incidents at Cape Spear.

Signs abound at Cape Spear warning visitors to stay on the designated trails and obey all warnings on trails. Numerous people have died at the site over the years. (Andrew Sampson/CBC)

"In my time there's been dozens and dozens and dozens — not the same result, a lot of times just broken ankles, broken legs — but the situation aggravates itself because the terrain is so precarious up here," he said.

Power's colleague, acting fire lieutenant Steve Erbland, said tourists and locals alike need to take the warning signs at Cape Spear seriously.

"These places are beautiful. We all love to come here and see them but obey the signs. The signs are here for a reason. They say stay away from the edges. They say watch where you're walking. Stay on the main trails."

Read more stories from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Lisa Gushue and Sarah Smellie and Andrew Sampson