Aviston woman is third to die by falling off cliffs in southern Illinois since last year

For the third time since last year, a person has fallen to their death off cliffs in popular hiking areas in the Shawnee National Forest in southern Illinois.

Marcia L. Blaies, 63, of Aviston in Clinton County died on Saturday, Oct. 21 when she slipped and fell at least 200 feet off the Inspiration Point cliff, according to Union County Coroner Jon Shaffer.

He ruled the death an accident.

At the time she fell, Blaies was not on the official Inspiration Point Trail, Shaffer said.

“The actual Inspiration Point Trail does not lead you out onto this rock,” Shaffer said. Also, he said he had been told that Blaies apparently had become “nervous” and “wanted to go back.”

Blaies died just over a year after a 55-year-old woman fell off the cliff in October 2022.

According to a report last year in The Southern Illinoisan, the Union County Sheriff’s Office reported the 55-year-old woman fell about 360 feet off Inspiration Point.

These two fatal falls were preceded by the death of a 10-year-old Indiana girl who fell 100 feet off a cliff in the Garden of the Gods section of the Shawnee National Forest in July 2022. Her fall happened at Devil’s Smokestack, according to WEVV. The cliff is a “stand-alone, pillar-shaped rock formation.”

Shaffer took office in December 2022, which was after the deaths of the 55-year-old woman and the 10-year-old girl.

A representative of the Shawnee National Forest has not returned messages left by the Belleville News-Democrat.

Funeral services

Blaies was a retired information technology specialist, according to her obituary with Moss Funeral Home in Breese.

“She was a true people person, finding immense happiness in the company of her grandchildren and in hosting cousin sleepovers filled with laughter and love,” the obituary states.

In retirement, Blaies delivered funeral notice cards for Moss Funeral Home to area businesses.

Her funeral was scheduled for Friday night at Moss Funeral Home.