A 17-year-old cheerleader with a “big heart” met a tragic demise when she lost her life after a horrific fall, which left her community grieving — but her loved ones hope something can be learned from the young girl who had her whole life ahead of her.
Zoe McKinney, a 17-year-old cheerleader, was hiking with friends on the Moab Rim Trail in the Kane Creek Canyon area near Moab, Utah, on a Friday afternoon when tragedy struck. At approximately 4:10 pm that fateful day, Zoe reportedly slipped and fell 30 feet off a “sheer cliff face.” The Utah teen’s friends immediately called 911 while trying to find a way to get to her, but there was no safe way to do so, Fox News reported.
When first responders arrived on the scene, they raced to the trail and immediately began working to get to the area where Zoe McKinney had fallen. Using harnesses and climbing gear with ropes, rescuers rappelled to the teen, but upon reaching her, they realized they were too late. Zoe had died from the 30-foot fall down the “sheer rock face,” and for the next two hours, officials worked to recover her body.
“Our hearts still ache tremendously for this beautiful young woman’s family and friends,” the Moab City Police Department said. Others shared similar sentiments, including Zoe’s friends, who said the cheerleader had a “big heart,” People Magazine reported. She was also remembered as a “very loving friend.”
“She was working on getting her EMT license, because that’s all she wanted to do was help people,” one of Zoe’s friends revealed. Indeed, the 17-year-old high school student was all about helping others, acting as a mentor for freshmen and taking them under her wing as they navigated their way through high school in the Grand County School District.
“Zoe was a remarkable student and we will honor her memory throughout the remainder of this senior year,” the school district said, following the news of the teen’s tragic passing. As the community was left grieving the horrific loss and trying to pick up the pieces, therapists were available at the school.
“We recognize 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,” Moab Police Chief Jared Garcia said in a statement at the time, adding that he hoped the community would support each other as well as the McKinney family during the difficult time.
The teen, who is remembered as a loving, caring friend and mentor, was described as a “tiny, but mighty” inspiring model, who was full of life, loved, and looked up to by many. “[She was] somebody that the girls really looked up to. She was a senior, and she just had so much ambition and big plans ahead of her,” recalled Rebecca Monceaux, whose daughter Avery Orton was on the cheer team with Zoe and a good friend. “All of the girls on her team and all of her friends in high school really looked up to her as somebody they could become one day.”
Rebecca said Zoe was “like our team mom,” and her daughter Avery seemed to agree. “She was supporting us throughout,” Avery said, speaking fondly of her cheer mate. “[Zoe] was there for everyone on the team and talked to us all the time, so we were just really close with everyone — especially her,” Avery added.
According to her friends, the Utah teen dreamed of making a difference. Zoe McKinney had big plans for the future that would sadly never come to fruition. She would never get to wear the red dress she had bought for her prom or have the big wedding she dreamed of as she married her boyfriend Lloyd with her cheerleading team there to celebrate.
However, Zoe McKinney was still able to spark change, even in death, as her friends explained that they hope people can live as Zoe did. What’s that mean? “Be kind to one another,” Rebecca said, according to Fox News, while another friend added, “Remember tomorrow is never a promise,” and Avery advised others “to be strong throughout all your difficult times,” just like Zoe.