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UPDATE: Friends call Las Vegas teen who was swept over Washington waterfall 'fearless'

Posted at 9:04 PM, Jul 27, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-29 14:56:37-04

UPDATE JULY 29: Friends hugged, lit candles and released balloons into the sky at Cimarron-Memorial High School as they said goodbye to a woman who died far too young.

Haylei Hughes died while hiking with friends at Wallace Falls State Park in Washington, about an hour outside Seattle. Hughes who recently graduated from Cimarron and went to play college soccer in Washington.

Melanie Ara was her high school teammate.

“It’s just unbelievable. It’s just not real,” Ara said. Ara couldn't believe it when she heard the news. “My whole body tensed up and I went pale.”

Investigators said Hughes climbed over a railing with some friends to reach an island across a river. As they walked back to the trail, disaster struck.

“The friends she was with actually heard a scream and then a splash and she was gone,” said a spokeswoman with the Washington State Police.

Crews found Hughes’s body in a basin below some waterfalls. 

The people who loved Hughes struggled with the cruel reality.

"I just cried for hours and hours and felt like a piece of me was gone,” Ara said.

“I haven’t wrapped my head around it if I’m being completely honest,” said Megan Sonerholm, another former teammate and one of Hughes's closest friends. “Haylei was more than just a friend. She was my sister.”

Hughes was standout in flag football, basketball and soccer.

“The best athletes I’ve ever met,” Sonerholm said.

Hughes survived her mother’s death from cancer and a recent car crash. Teammates, like Isabella Oliva, said Hughes was fearless, a risk taker.

“You almost thought she was invincible, like nothing could stop her,” Oliva said.

Most of all, Hughes was a reliable friend.

“She’s just such a strong person. She’s always been there for everybody and she’s always smiled through everything," Sonerholm said.

Hughes’s grandmother is retrieving her body in Washington.

UPDATE JULY 28: The Snohomish County Coroner identified the teen as Haylei N. Hughes. She died of multiple blunt force injuries. The manner of death was ruled an accident.


GOLD BAR, Wash. (AP) -- Authorities say they have discovered the body of an 18-year-old woman swept over a waterfall in Washington state.
The Snohomish County Sheriff's Office says the woman was found in a pool of water Thursday at the base of the lower falls at Wallace Falls State Park northeast of Seattle.
Officials say the woman, who was from Las Vegas but attending a community college in Washington, had climbed out past an observation fence onto an island above the upper falls on Wednesday.
As they returned, the friends heard a scream and splash behind them, and their friend was gone.