A 20-year-old U.S. student fell to her death while trying to view the sunset from a 20-foot pagoda in Myanmar’s ancient former capital of Bagan, the government said on Wednesday.
Kassandra Braun accidentally fell from the tiered tower around 4.30pm on Tuesday and died from severe injuries on the way to a hospital in Mandalay, the Home Affairs ministry said.
Braun, originally from a suburb of Indianapolis, Indiana, and a junior at St Edward’s University in Austin Texas, was on a study abroad ‘Semester at Sea’ when she died.
The study abroad program, which circumnavigates the globe over the course of 100 days, has said Braun was on independent travel at the time of her death.
Myanmar has tried in vain to keep tourists from scaling Bagan’s temples to watch sunsets fall over its vast plain of more than 2,000 Buddhist monuments.
In 2016, authorities tried to restrict the daily ritual to five main temples, citing the need to preserve the temples and protect tourists’ safety.
But travellers are still allowed to climb many of Bagan’s smaller structures, including the 20-foot Wuttanathaw pagoda from which Braun fell.
Bagan is among Myanmar’s most venerated religious sites and a top attraction for its growing tourism industry.
Major renovations were launched after an August 2016 earthquake damaged hundreds of pagodas.
Braun’s parents, Chalene and Dave Braun, said they were devastated by the news of her death.
“The family is absolutely devastated by the tragic death of their daughter and sister, Kassandra ‘Kassie’ Braun,” the family said.
They are still waiting for further details about what happened but would like everyone to know that Kassie was having the time of her life on Semester at Sea and was living her dream.
“She was so full of life and love, gave so much to so many. She had a tremendous love for her friends and teachers at Cathedral High School and St. Edward’s University.
“She lived life the Holy Cross way hoping to someday give back as was given to her. Kassie’s family greatly appreciates the outpouring of love and support they have received and requests privacy as they mourn their loss and make arrangements for Kassie’s repatriation.”
Braun’s brother is a freshman at St Edward’s, which is holding a memorial Mass in Our Lady Queen of Peace Chapel on Wednesday evening.
The Semester at Sea program released a statement saying Braun was on independent travel in Myanmar.
“We are deeply saddened to share the news of the loss of a member of our shipboard community,” the organization said in a statement, adding that she fell while on independent travel in Bagan.
The program said a ship-wide meeting was going to be held, and mental health counselors would be on hand.
Her university, St Edward’s, also released a statement, saying: “We are deeply saddened to share with the St. Edward’s community that junior, SEU student Kassandra Arielle Braun, passed away during a tragic accident while studying abroad with Semester at Sea.
“Kassie was originally from Mccordsdville, Indiana and majoring in communication. Kassandra attended Cathedral High School in Indianapolis before joining the St. Edward’s community and was a Moreau Scholar.
“She was very involved at St. Edward’s, participating in the Hilltop Leaders program, the Hilltop Hospitality Team, the Business Living Learning Community, and had already travelled to Italy and South Africa with the university.”