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Yellowstone worker, 18, falls to death first day on the job

CODY, Wyoming -- 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, on the North Rim trail, Montana's KAJ18 station reported.

The group had ventured onto an off-trail promontory at a spot called Inspiration Point when the accident happened.

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A member of the hiking party used a cellphone to alert park authorities. Yellowstone Park rangers said they responded to the 911 call around 6 p.m. local time (8 p.m. ET) on Thursday, KAJ18 reported.

A rescue team that was dispatched to the scene later reported spotting a badly mangled figure about 400 feet below the rim of the 1,500-foot-deep canyon, officials said.

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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.

According to Denver's ABC 7 News, friends of the woman said she was from Russia. This could not be immediately verified.

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Fatal falls are relatively rare at Yellowstone, accounting for fewer than a dozen deaths - among millions of visitors - over the past 30 years.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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