Mother and friend remember woman who fell from waterfall in Lake Tahoe

LAKE TAHOE, Calif. (KGO) -- The fast-flowing cold waters of snow melt in the Sierra may have contributed to an accidental death at Lake Tahoe where a woman fell from the top of a popular waterfall last weekend.

Stephanie Espinosa, 35, lived and worked in Benicia. It was Friday afternoon when Espinosa was enjoying the view about 150 feet above Emerald Bay at Lake Tahoe.

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At the top of Eagle Falls, she waded in one of the pools when she reached for a branch and lost her footing. She vanished over the falls. Rescue and dive teams later found her body. Initial reports indicated she might've been taking photos, but her family says that was not the case.

"Stephanie didn't even have her phone with her when she fell. She was trying to enjoy the moment," said her brother Nick Martinez.

Her friend and business partner Gina Santana, was on the trip with Espinosa.

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"She gave so much of her self to other people physically, spiritually and emotionally. It was not uncommon for Stephanie to take off and go into nature because that's how she recharged," she said.

They even kayaked this weekend at Lake Tahoe before the accident around 2:30 p.m. on Friday.

Espinosa's mother, Rachell Julien, described her daughter as "the most beautiful, free-spirited person you'd ever meet. She was amazing. She raised her two boys and Marissa and my own daughter."

Espinosa worked for years as an instructor at Blake Austin college in Vacaville and left to open a spa in Benicia one year ago called "The Purple Door Aesthetics."

Santana, her business partner, said hundreds of Espinosa's former students are devastated and have been calling to express their condolences saying Espinosa was an inspiration.

The family has started a GoFundMe page to help support the two sons she leaves behind.

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