Zahra Allahyari of San Diego dies after fall in Yellowstone canyon

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Wyo. - A young girl from the San Diego area died after falling about 550 feet while hiking in Yellowstone National Park.

The National Park Service says the accident occurred Sunday morning in the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.

The victim was identified as eight-year-old Poway resident Zahra Allahyari.

According to the Park Service, the girl and members of her family were hiking down a trail on the north side of the canyon to the Brink of the Lower Falls overlook. The agency says the child apparently stepped off the trail, lost her footing and fell.

Her body was retrieved around noon Sunday. The incident remains under investigation.

Park officials said the death was the third accidental death in Yellowstone National Park in 2014.

Zahra's best friend Kirsten Newkirk spoke with 10News Monday evening and shared memories of her friend. The two girls met in kindergarten.

"We had so much in common," said Kirsten. "She was, like, really nice to me … She was a really good friend and I really miss her."

Parent Julie Clemmons told 10News, "My heart and prayers go out to her family for sure. It's going to take its toll on all the kids. It's a very small, close-knit school. Everybody knows each other very well."  

It is especially taking its toll on Kirsten. She wanted 10News to know that Zahra was the one who helped her on the playground when she broke her arm.

Kirsten recently returned from the Philippines and picked up a bookmark for Zahra.

"She likes dragons. I was saving it so I could give it to her on the first day of school," she said. "I'll just keep it with me or maybe put it at school where she sat."

There was one more thing she wanted to tell her friend.

"I just hope you have another good life in heaven and I miss you," said Kirsten.

Poway Unified School District officials said Zahra was to start fourth grade at Pomerado Elementary School. Classes begin on Wednesday.

The following letter was issued to parents regarding Zahra's passing:

Dear Pomerado Elementary Families:

It is with a heavy heart that I write this letter informing you that one of our students, Zahra Allahyari, passed away on Sunday in Yellowstone National Park. I ask you to join the staff and students of Pomerado Elementary School as well as the entire family of Poway Unified School District in keeping her family and friends in your thoughts and prayers.

Our staff was notified of her passing this afternoon. Counselors will be present at Pomerado on Wednesday through the end of the week to speak with any and all students, staff and families who are affected by this tragedy.

The grieving process is a normal, natural, and healing result of loss; and pain is to be expected. Young people of all ages exhibit various grief reactions. Guilt, anxiety, anger, fear and sadness may be universal, and the expressions of these emotions may vary from day to day. Helping a young person through this difficult time may often feel overwhelming, however, knowledge of common reactions to loss may help you recognize behavior for what it is - grieving. Resources for grief are available on our District website for families at:

I realize that the passing of a fellow student is extremely traumatic to students, staff, parents and the entire school community. Our District will be enlisting the aid of additional counselors to be available for as long as necessary. Please call me at (858) 748-1320 or visit my office should you have questions or concerns.

Luis Ortiz
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