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10/23/2014 8:35:45 AM

Woman, 24, who married on Grand Canyon rim dies in 300ft fall while attempting to become youngest person in history to hike across it

She was just 80 miles short of becoming the youngest person in history to hike the Grand Canyon from end to end when tragedy struck, a loose rock some believe, tumbling her 300 feet below.

Beautiful, smart, active and young as a newlywed at 24 years old, friends of Ioana Hociota say she was an experienced hiker, one of the best, but died last month because of one possible misstep.

'It's tempting for people to think that a pretty, beautiful young woman of 24 might have been out there, you know, out of her element and out of her head,' her husband Andrew Holycross told ABC, 'and she absolutely was not.'

A recent graduate in both mathematics and biology at Arizona State University who had moved from Romania with her mother and sister in 2002, she was introduced to the canyons by Mr Holycross at the age of 18 according to one friend, and fell immediately in love.

Five years later the couple married in a ceremony overlooking the valleys. She trekked over 850 miles through its trails her husband says, ran in marathons, loved yoga and was literate in four languages of English, French, Spanish and Romanian.

'She accomplished more in 24 years than a lot of people do in a lifetime and she lived fully,' Mr Holycross said.

On February 25 Ms Hociota and her hiking partner Matthia Kawski marched through Owl Eyes Canyon on its south rim, separating themselves by about 20 yards on their different paths.

While higher up from Mr Kawski, her friends and husband say her path wasn't unusual or unsafe but one they would have chosen for themselves. It was here Mr Kawski says he heard some small rocks fall from above him, nothing out of the ordinary, until he heard a cry.

'It was very short almost like a bird’s and I thought, there are no birds here,' Mr Kawski told KPBS.
'Then the blood froze in my veins. It was a few seconds later that I heard a dull thump. I ran back to the saddle calling for her. There was incredible silence,' he recalled.

She had fallen down a gravel well and onto a ledge, according to her husband, tumbling about 300 feet beyond that. A loose rock is suspected for the fall, while not much more is known.

The medical examiner believes she was dead when she hit the ledge. Married at the canyon's Marble Point last June, even taking some of her wedding party on a 25-mile hike after the ceremony, her husband says she died doing what she loved.

In her goal of hiking the canyon from end to end and setting the record for her age, her final trek was planned for the week of March 18.

She would have been the youngest or 16th person to complete this feat.
'This was a woman we all admired a lot, and, I'm so proud to have been her husband,' Mr Holycross said, choking back tears.

Mr Holycross has since set up a scholarship in her name at Arizona State University titled the Ioana Elise Hociota Memorial Mathematics Scholarship Endowment which it is still receiving donations for.

It hopes to assist those by both need and merit base while also available to 'immigrants who came to America with Ioana-sized dreams,' it states.

In a mission to complete Ms Hociota's last 80 miles, Mr Holycross and some of her friends say they plan to hike the rest of the canyon's trails for her. They will carry her backpack along with a lock of her hair.


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Completing her hike: Her husband, pictured with her here, says he plans to trek his wife's remaining 80 miles with friends while carrying her backpack and a lock of her hair

Woman, 24, who married on Grand Canyon rim dies in 300ft fall while attempting to become youngest person in history to hike across itWoman, 24, who married on Grand Canyon rim dies in 300ft fall while attempting to become youngest person in history to hike across it

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