US

Parents Release Final Photo of Utah Teen Who Fell to His Death in Australia

By Zachary Stieber

The parents of an American teenager have released the final picture of their son, taken just before he plummeted to his death last year at a popular tourist spot in Australia.

Gavin Paul Zimmerman, 19, a Mormon, was serving as a missionary in the country when he fell on July 23, 2018, while whale watching on his missionary preparation day.

“We are so grateful for our Father in Heaven’s plan of salvation,” Zimmerman’s parents, Raymond and Jeanette Zimmerman, said in a statement obtained by Deseret News. “We know that we will be with [Gavin] again one day. Our family will miss him greatly until we meet again.”

The parents released the final photo of their son as they journeyed to the spot where he died.

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“‘It’s a selfie, you can see all the people around. He looks so happy! He had a smile on his face, it looked like a beautiful day,” Ray Zimmerman told Channel Seven.

“It looked like there was plenty of room between him and the edge, I mean I didn’t think, there was no alarm—nothing. It looked perfectly fine.”

Zimmerman recalled seeing the photo posted online and responding to it by sending a message to his son. When the teen didn’t respond, his father figured he was busy.

“Then I said, ‘I’ll talk to you next week, bud. Love ya,’ and then we get the knock on the door a few hours later,” he said.

The teen was watching whales from a platform on Cape Solander in Kurnell, a suburb of Sydney, when he fell approximately 20 meters (65 feet).

“At this stage, it appears to be a misadventure: he has slipped and fallen over the edge and unfortunately died,” NSW Police Chief Inspector Chris Hill told The Sydney Morning Herald.

Zimmerman and a group of friends left the platform and were making their way down to the rocks near the ocean when they fell, Hill said.

A Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter spokesperson said that personnel found Zimmerman face down and unconscious directly below the whale-watching platform.

Cape Solander is known as one of Sydney’s best whale-watching spots. A month prior to Zimmerman’s plunge, a man died in the same area after falling from a cliff.

Law enforcement officials discovered that Zimmerman was taking pictures before he fell, Sutherland Mayor Carmelo Pesce said.

“I’ve been told that the police have recovered a phone that has photographs on there of the young gentleman taking photos and he was extremely close to the edge of the rock,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Pesce said that a council lifeguard rode a jetski to the area, dove in, and pulled Zimmerman on board before performing CPR until emergency responders arrived.

“The lifeguard that jumped in, I believe that he is distressed,” Pesce said.

Visitors to the area should be careful and not risk their lives for a photo, the official said.

“You’re putting your life at risk and why—for a photo? It’s not that important,” he said.

“Those rocks are very slippery,” Hill added to The Herald. “For your safety, we recommend that you stay up on the whale-watching platform and please don’t go down on the rocks.”