Just last week, the couple’s travels took them to Yosemite National Park, a breathtaking landscape of craggy granite cliffs and thundering waterfalls. It would be their final journey.
Viswanath, 29, and Moorthy, 30, were identified by park officials Monday as the two people who died last week after falling from Taft Point, a popular overlook that towers 3,500 feet above Yosemite Valley, the Fresno Bee reported. They fell about 800 feet “in an area with very steep terrain,” according to a Friday news release from the National Park Service that announced the recovery of their bodies. During the recovery process, park rangers had to use “technical climbing and rappelling techniques” and a helicopter, the release said.
“It’s clearly a very tragic circumstance and as the investigation progresses we will have a better idea of possibly what happened,” park spokesman Jamie Richards told KFSN, noting that it is “too early to speculate.” “We do not know any of the circumstances of what may have happened up there.”
Two people who knew the couple, however, believe they may have been trying to take a photo.
The high school sweethearts who wed in 2014 ran a travel blog called “Holidays And HappilyEverAfters” and boasted an Instagram following of more than 17,800 people. Born in India, the pair had resided in New York until recently moving to California, where Viswanath — when he wasn’t traveling — worked as a software engineer for Cisco Systems in San Jose, the Mercury News reported.
“Diagnosed with the ‘curious case of interminable travel bug’ and a huge believer of ‘happily-ever-afters’, we will share with y’all, our holiday escapades, travel hacks, tips (and quips!),” read one post on their blog, which has been taken down.
Their Instagram account is filled with photos of exotic subjects, including the pristine white sand beaches of the Maldives and Italy’s Florence Cathedral. The couple also commemorated their anniversary in dramatic fashion, with a hot-air balloon ride in 2016 and skydiving last year.
“Hurling myself out of a perfectly functioning airplane was a dream forever for this pink-haired daredevil,” Moorthy wrote in the caption of the video from the skydiving excursion. Fittingly, she wore a T-shirt bearing the words “GIMME DANGER.”
Several photos show Moorthy posing near the edge of sharp cliffs, no guardrails in sight. On Facebook, Viswanath’s cover photo is a picture of him and his wife at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon standing on a high rock outcropping with their arms extended wide and huge smiles on their faces.
“Living life on the edge,” the photo’s caption reads.
At Yosemite’s Taft Point, their tripod was set up near one of the overlook’s ledges, Jishnu Viswanath, Vishnu’s brother, told the Associated Press on Tuesday. The pair were taking a selfie when they fell, he said. It was unclear how he knows that. He did not respond to messages from The Washington Post.
A safety railing is installed at the very tip of Taft Point, but there are open areas where a person could walk right up to the edge of the precipice. Sean Matteson, who was at the overlook at the same time as the couple, told the AP he believes he may have taken the last pictures of Moorthy, capturing her in the background of his own selfies.
“She was very close to the edge, but it looked like she was enjoying herself,” said Matteson, who remembered seeing Moorthy because of her bright pink hair. “She gave me the willies. There aren’t any railings. . . . But she seemed comfortable. She didn’t seem like she was in distress or anything.”
Raj Katta, who has known the pair for three years, told The Washington Post in a phone interview he also thought snapping a photo was “possibly the reason” his friends fell. Katta, a 24-year-old data engineer in New York, met Vishnu Viswanath at Bradley University in Peoria, Ill., where they were both completing a master’s program in computer science.
Katta said he never expected this to happen to Viswanath and Moorthy.
“They’re adventurous, but they always were thoughtful,” he said. “They know what they’re doing, they always had, but one instance changed everything.”
Based on their social media posts, Viswanath and Moorthy appeared to be aware of the dangers involved with taking photos at the edges of canyons, mountains or tall buildings. On Instagram, Moorthy warned her followers in at least two posts to exercise caution when attempting these kinds of pictures.
“Please be careful ...,” she wrote in November of last year, alongside a photo of her in a Wonder Woman costume at the Grand Canyon. “The wind gusts are extremely dangerous and your adrenaline rage is not worth your life.” Moorthy added that she and her husband had “waited quite a bit” and made sure it was safe before taking the picture.
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Sooo tis’ no secret that I have always admired and aroused by women who dare to stand out in the crowd just by being themselves🌟You know the passionate ones🤘who “do their thing” no matter what curve balls the society throws at them, the driven ones👊who venture on their wildest dreams,and whether they are rule makers or rule breakers, what they all have in common is, they stand darn true to themselves and their ideals🦄and don’t act anything less than what they are, just for the society to “accept” them.😏 ... And Wonder Woman(fictitious or not, we will come to that soon) is exactly all that and more! She is strong (hell yes!) yet sensitive.⚡️She is badass but she doubted her strength and even gets yelled at for that.⚡️She is stubborn but she is also kind.⚡️Do you see, there is a Wonder Woman👩⚔️in each and every one of you.Just let her shine through ✨✨✨and you will be unstoppable.🤘 ... Sooo ladies, sparkling in the #pinkpositivelight 💕✨ let’s do this for the 🦋onder 🦋oman inside us. Tell me your strengths that you are proud of.🤘Not the others, but what do YOU love the most about yourself?😇And I can tell you this my Amazons,⚔️👩once you believe in the spark ⚡️which makes you “you”, nothing can stop you from lassoing your way to be a Sassy, Strong, Ass-kicking Wonder Woman.🤘So c’mon, together let us pop, fizz and clink🥂to all the Wonder Women out there and celebrate their quirks and strengths.🎇 ... PS-For the “Super Man” reading this post, it would be great if you could share with us about the Wonder Woman🤘in your life. I can’t promise if Vishnu will dress up for a post like this for the men but we’ll see 😉 ... PPS – Please be careful standing at the edge of canyons/mountains/high rise buildings. The wind gusts are extremely dangerous☠️ and your adrenaline rage is not worth your life. We waited quite a bit and made sure of this. • • • #dametraveler #ladiesgoneglobal #girlsborntotravel #wearetravelgirls #iamtb #myfavtourlina #sheisnotlost #femmetravel #citizenfemme #sheexplores #travelista #traveltales #thediscoverer #travelust #dreamscape #instagramaz #visitarizona #timeoutsociety #inlovewiththisplace #dametravelerconnection #sidewalkerdaily #travelinladies
Another photo shared earlier this year, also of Moorthy at the Grand Canyon, was solely dedicated to discussing the “limits of #doitforthegram.”
“A lot of us including yours truly is a fan of daredevilry attempts of standing at the edge of cliffs and skyscrapers, but did you know that wind gusts can be FATAL???" Moorthy wrote. “Is our life worth one photo?”
It continued: “When we squirm at another selfie attempt gone south from a skyscraper, let’s remember to save that in our core memory...”
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CHASING SUNSETS or CHASING LIKES ??? 😛 ... Sooo today on #socialmediabadasstribe we are talking about limits of #doitforthegram.😶Yeah sure it can be limitless but guys, we reaaaallly need to have boundaries(this is handy as life lessons too but we will revisit that later😉) A lot of us including yours truly is a fan of daredevilry attempts of standing at the edge of cliffs ⛰and skyscrapers🌆, but did you know that wind gusts can be FATAL??? ☠️ Is our life just worth one photo? ... When we squirm at another selfie attempt gone south 😱 from a skyscraper, let’s remember to save that in our core memory 🧠 and not the memory dump 🛢(I am still on the Inside Out 🎬 train y'all 😬) Same applies when we get our knickers in a twist and hog a spot till we get the perfect shot🙄 I know I know, I am guilty as charged for all of this 🤦♀️ and if I didn’t have Mr. Two Goody Shoes, Vishnu 🤭 with me, I am not even sure if I would have written this post. ... Let us all try to be responsible digital citizens and use our “numbers” to be transparent and honest, shall we?🤗 None of us is perfect and the more we accept it and share our flaws as much as our wins, we are one step closer to creating a sane social media without the scary brouhahas.💕✨ ... Still there?👀 Woohoo, a backflip is in order, or wait maybe a pizza? 🍕 What about a unicorn ice-cream 🦄 🍦 with some Disney-approved cotton candy 🍭🍬 and pixie dust infused sprinkles 🧚♀️ if…..IF you could tell me the one time you were effin’ proud of being candid and real AF in social media? 😎 ... PS - Not sponsored but sweatshirt is from @radearthsupply • • • #grandcanyonnps #northrim #instagramaz #visitarizona #travelarizona #shotzdelight #discovertheroad #usaroadtrip #visittheusa #outdoorsusa #exploretheusa #womenwhoexplore #iamtb #radparks #thediscoverer #gtgi #sheisnotlost #wearetravelgirls #hikemore #radgirlslife #travelreality #dreamscape @womenwhoexplore @visit_arizona @visittheusa @shotzdelight
More than 250 people have died worldwide in the last six years while taking selfies, according to a recent study from researchers in India published in the Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care. One of the main causes of the selfie-related deaths included falling from heights, the study found. At Yosemite in September, an Israeli teenager fell to his death while trying to take a selfie at the top of Nevada Falls, which is 600 feet high, the Independent reported.
Richards, the Park Service spokesman, told the Mercury News that the metal railing at Taft Point was undamaged. Park officials do not plan to install any more railings at the overlook, she said.
“We want all visitors who come to Yosemite National Park to come here, have an adventure, experience the wonder and magic . . . and go home in the same condition that they arrived here,” Richards told KFSN. “Any time that does not happen, it is a tragic day.”
After learning about the death of his friends, Katta said, he was “not able to digest” the news, adding that he even needed to stay home from work.
“I don’t know how this happened,” he said. “I still can’t believe it to be honest.”
Katta said that Moorthy, “lively” and always searching for the next adventure, and Viswanath, an organized planner, were “perfect for each other.”
“They loved traveling and it was a way of celebrating their love,” he said.