American tourist, 20, plunges to death at Masada

In separate incident, 56 US students extricated from hike in southern Israel amid searingly hot weather

Briana McHam, the 20 year old American tourist who plunged to her death at Masada, May 19, 2015. (Facebook/briana.mcham)
Briana McHam, the 20 year old American tourist who plunged to her death at Masada, May 19, 2015. (Facebook/briana.mcham)

A young American tourist was found dead on the Masada hiking trail on Tuesday, after an apparent plunge to her death from a cliff on one of the hottest days of the year.

Briana McHam, 20, of Pompano Beach, Florida, fell some 26 feet off the historic mountain’s Snake Path on Tuesday afternoon while traveling with an unnamed organized group.

When she fell, she hit her head and lost consciousness, and it took more than an hour before the group noticed she was missing, the Ynet news website reported.

“At the bottom of the cliff we noticed a young woman, about 20, lying unconscious, not breathing and with no pulse, with systemic injuries and signs of heatstroke. We began resuscitating her but after some time had to pronounce her dead,” a Magen David Adom paramedic said.

She was travelling with a group of students from Florida State University, the Forward reported.

The mountain, home to an ancient fortress and the site of a standoff between Jewish rebels and Roman soldier in the first century, is one of the most popular tourists sites in the country.

In a separate incident, fifty-six hikers were extricated by the Megilot rescue unit and Magen David Adom paramedics from a trail in the Dead Sea region. Twenty-five of them – 19-year-old American students studying in Israel – were taken to Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem suffering from dehydration.

The incidents came as Israel was hit with a blistering heatwave, with temperatures in the Dead sea region topping 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit).

The heatwave began on Monday, peaked on Tuesday, and was expected to abate Thursday when temperatures will mercifully return to seasonal norms.

Fire bans were instituted across swaths of northern and central Israel on Monday, but the country was nonetheless hit with a spate of brush fires. On Tuesday afternoon, a fire was raging outside Tel Hashomer hospital near central Israel. Some 10 firefighting units were working at the scene to extinguish the fire.

Avi Lewis and JTA contributed to this report.

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