A report from the BC Coroner’s Service has determined the death of a Kamloops woman who fell from Spahats Falls in Wells Grey Provincial Park last year was an accident.
Moraya Harrison, 21, fell an estimated 500 feet to her death the evening of June 13 while visiting the falls with three friends.
According to the report, the group was in a viewing area atop a cliff fenced off by a one-metre-high wooden fenced railing when the incident occurred. One friend was sitting on the railing when Harrison jumped onto the person’s lap, causing them both to fall backwards over the fence. The friend was able top grab onto some foliage, but Harrison fell over the edge of the cliff.
Drug use was determined to have been a contributing factor in her death.
Her blood alcohol level was 0.09 per cent and she had cocaine and MDMA in her system “at levels known to increase risk taking behaviour,” according to coroner’s report.
Ashley Klaassen, Harrison’s sister, said she understands why drug use was included in the report, but feels an important distinction is that it wasn’t the immediate cause of death.
“The family feels that, what happened to Moraya, had more to do with her thirst for adrenaline than her level of impairment,” Klaassen told KTW via email.
“I understand why this was included in the report; however, the important distinction here is that drugs and alcohol were not the immediate cause of death. The unfortunate result of the release of this report is that people have been so quick to condemn her actions and propagate the narrative that she was somehow deserving of what happened to her because of what was found in her system, which is hurtful,” Klaasen said.
“There seems to be a disparity in how accidental death is covered in the media when toxicology results are reported on, which is really unfortunate. I find this kind of reporting incredibly reductive because it further stigmatizes victims and their families.”
She noted barriers will only contain those who want to be contained, and her family encourages everyone to exercise sound judgement in situations where there is a risk of death or personal injury.
“If there is a take-away from Moraya's passing, it's that no one is immune to accidental death — know your limits, if not for yourself, for your family,” she said.
For Klaassen, she remembers her sister as an outgoing, spontaneous and independent person.
“In her short life, she had developed a reputation as a formidable athlete and was a well-known member of the Kamloops soccer community,” Klassen said, adding her sister had a keen interest in mathematics and planned to pursue a career in finance.”
“She was the baby of the family but was far from the quiet one,” Klassen said. “She will be missed because we feel she was on the precipice of achieving great things.”
Following her death a memorial bench was placed at Spahats Falls for Harrison, the result of a Go Fund Me initiative started by a family friend.