How A 'Dad Joke' At The Grand Canyon Turned Into A Deadly Fall

If there's one crucial fact to know about the Grand Canyon, it's that it's, well, really, really big. It certainly earned the moniker 'Grand,' stretching around 277 miles and boasting depths of 6,000 feet at its most terrifying and awe-inspiring (per Britannica). The Grand Canyon National Park, in particular, is a powerhouse of visitor attraction, with the National Park Service reporting that 4,550,921 people came to visit the American icon in 2021.

Needless to say, visitors to the Colorado Plateau generally can't help but gaze at its majesty. One of the world's most incredible feats of nature, the Grand Canyon is certainly to be admired, but it's also to be respected. This is planet Earth at its most formidable, most impressive, and most likely to kill you with one tragic misstep. Sadly, one unfortunate father couldn't resist pulling what he surely considered to be the ultimate dad joke on a visit, and it cost him his life.

A practical joke that ended in tragedy

When a genre of cheesy humor is dedicated to fathers alone, it's clear that it's something of a requirement for dads everywhere to indulge in it. The dad joke can range of anything from a quick, cheap pun to something more physical and dramatic. In 1992, Greg Austin Gingrich saw a wonderful opportunity for the latter, and he jumped straight into it with every ounce of energy he could muster in true dad fashion.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Gingrich was visiting the Grand Canyon with his daughter when he hatched a very dangerous plan. He would leap onto the guard wall and pretend to plummet accidentally while, in actuality, coming to a safe halt on the other side. This, apparently, would either amuse the teenager or absolutely horrify her. It's unclear which outcome Gingrich had in mind, but inevitably and terribly, he came to no such safe landing. Misjudging the distance, he actually fell about 400 feet to his death.

The Grand Canyon is a wonderfully dangerous place

Michael P. Ghiglieri, the ecologist who co-wrote "Over the Edge: Death in Grand Canyon" with Thomas M. Myers, shared the terrible story with the Los Angeles Times. According to Ghiglieri, Gingrich was absolutely committed to the bit. He "leaped atop the guard wall and wind-milled his arms, playing-acting losing his balance," the author wrote in an email to the outlet. So far, so dad-like.

Gingrich's daughter's response, in turn, was suitably teenage daughter-ly. She reportedly "walked on, trying not to fuel her father's dangerous antics by paying attention to them." This, clearly, was a long-suffering girl accustomed to her father's tomfoolery. This was not the place for practical jokes, though, and Gingrich paid the ultimate price. His body, according to the author, was later found by park authorities.

The majestic Grand Canyon has long been, and will long be, the unfortunate site of such accidents. According to Grand Canyon National Parks Trips (via Outside), approximately 12 people die at the Grand Canyon each year. It is reported that in past incidents, warning signs and such were not forthcoming. The National Park Service's John Quinley told NBC News, "People walk behind the railings, over the top of railings, hang their feet over the edge. So more signs is not necessarily going to encourage more safety."