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Police release name of woman who died in fall at Garden of the Gods

Staff Writer
Posted on 6/9/2016, 10:34 AM

An incident that occurred at the Garden of the Gods on Wednesday is under investigation by the Saline County Sheriff"s Office, Saline County Coroner"s Office, and the U.S. Forest Service.

Melissa A. Riley, 37, of Owensboro Kentucky, was pronounced dead, following a fall at Garden of the Gods. Saline County E-911 received a call at 10:45 a.m. on Wednesday, with Saline County deputies, Saline County EMS, and members of the Equality Fire Department dispatched to respond. The Illinois State Police, Air Evac, Hardin County Sheriff"s Office and Hardin County Emergency Management Agency also assisted with the call.

The 37-year-old woman fell approximately 100 feet near the Table Rock formation, and was pronounced dead at the scene by Saline County Coroner Jerry Doug Watson. Her name was withheld, pending notification of her family.

Garden of the Gods is a wilderness area in Southeast Saline County, about 12 miles southeast of Harrisburg, with several hiking trails and outcroppings of rock formations. Saline County Sheriff Keith Brown advised visitors to the area to wear appropriate shoes and clothing, and to bring water and a fully-charged cell phone. As the Garden of the Gods area does not have good cell coverage, Brown suggested that visitors should bring a whistle or a way to get attention. Brown also stated that visitors should let somebody know where they are going, and what time they should be returning.

"This is a wilderness area, and there is wildlife in the area," Brown said, specifically mentioning the presence of snakes. "It takes a while for first responders to arrive to the park, and then even longer to locate someone in the park." Saline County 911 does have the ability to receive text messaging for 911, and has used the technology previously to aid lost hikers in the park.

The incident is still under investigation, but authorities do not believe anything about the incident to be suspicious.