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Friends watch in horror as 17-year-old plunges 30 feet to her death during hike in Moab, Utah

A teenager has died after plunging 30 feet from a sheer cliff face while hiking in Utah.

Zoe McKinney, 17, had been hiking in the Moab Rim Trail in Kane Creek Canyon with a group of friends at about 4.10pm on Friday when she “somehow slipped and fell”, the Moab Police Department chief Jared Garcia said in a statement.

McKinney’s friends were unable to safely reach her and called 911.

Search and rescue teams rushed to the scene and used harnesses and climbing gear to rappel down to where she had fallen, Mr Garcia said.

By the time they reached her, she was “deceased from the fall”, police said.

Assistant police chief Lex Bell told KUTV that McKinney’s family had been on scene as they carried out the difficult recovery operation.

Mr Bell said McKinney was well-known in the tight-knit community of Moab, and the Grand County High School senior had been due to receive an award during an evening basketball game at on the day that she died.

Loved ones, friends and school officials also paid tribute to the student, who was in her senior year at high school.

Zoe McKinney, 17, died after falling from a cliff in the Kane Creek Canyon in Utah on Friday (NBC News)
Zoe McKinney, 17, died after falling from a cliff in the Kane Creek Canyon in Utah on Friday (NBC News)

“Zoe was a remarkable student and we will honour her memory throughout the remainder of this senior year,” the Grand County School District said in a statement.

“The school community is grieving with Zoe’s family and will provide love and support in any way we can,  including having therapists available at school on Monday.”

Her boyfriend Lloyd Gist told NBC News that McKinney had been planning to become a paramedic after finishing high school.

Mr Gist, 18, said he met McKinney after moving from Salt Lake City to Moab two years ago, and they had been dating for about 12 months.

She had been a cheerleader when he played football for the Grand County High School team, he said.

“She had the brightest smile,” Mr Gist told NBC News. “She was just the sweetest — if anyone asked her to do anything she would be jumping on it instantly.”

Police acknowledged the town’s grief in a statement.

“We recognise the devastating impact the loss of a beloved young woman and friend has in this small community, but know that wonderful people of Moab will band together to support and comfort her family and friends at this time,” Mr Garcia said.