Illinois man dies in 500-foot fall at Grand Canyon days before starting his dream job as nurse

A 24-year-old Illinois man died last week after falling near a viewpoint at the Grand Canyon National Park, authorities said on Monday.

Andrey Privin, from Buffalo Grove, died July 3 after falling 500 feet at the South Rim of the park, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Park officials said the rangers initially responded to reports that a visitor, who was later identified as Privin, had lost his footing after climbing over a railing at a viewpoint near Mather Point.

Andrey Privin FB

MAy 15, 2016: Andrey Privin after graduating from Loyola University.  (Facebook)

Park spokeswoman Kirby-Lynn Shedlowski told the National Parks Traveler that, “While the incident remains under investigation, I can share that it is most likely he removed his backpack for better dexterity."

The tragic death of a young man came just days before he was set to begin his dream job as a nurse at Highland Park Hospital.

“I can honestly say I've never wanted anything quite as much as I wanted to be a nurse,” Privin wrote in a Facebook post from April, celebrating his completion of a bachelor’s degree in nursing. “I am very proud to answer the call to serve.”

“I can honestly say I've never wanted anything quite as much as I wanted to be a nurse ... I am very proud to answer the call to serve.”

- Andrey Privin,

A spokeswoman for NorthShore University Health System told the Tribune that Privin’s first day at work would have been July 9 and that he previously worked at the hospital as a patient care technician.

“We are deeply saddened by the tragic death of our dear colleague and friend Andrey Privin. He was well-loved by his patients and coworkers, and enjoyed a reputation of always going above and beyond to make a significant impact on people’s lives,” a statement from NorthShore University Health System read. “We offer our heartfelt condolences to his family during this difficult time.”

A GoFundMe page has been set up to help Privin’s family cover funeral expenses. The family has gathered over $11,000 in donations – but short of the $12,000 they seek.

Andrey Privin 2 FB

A GoFundMe page has been set up to help Privin’s family cover funeral expenses. The family has gathered over $11,000 in donations – but short of the $12,000 they seek.  (Facebook)

Friends, colleagues and teachers have since shared their fond memories of Privin. Martha Sussman, a colleague at the hospital, told the Daily Herald in Illinois that “He was very good with his patients, very dedicated. A very intelligent young man.”

“Andrey had a genuine warmth about him. You came away from spending time with him feeling rejuvenated, understood, and full, rather than depleted," said close friend Kayla Huber.

Sindi Smith, a science teacher who taught Privin at Buffalo Grove High School, told the Tribune that he was an exemplary student who “worked hard” but was also “silly and had a lot of fun.”

“During the school year, the class goes out on field trips, observes an open heart surgery and visits a cadaver lab, so the students can see if they want to pursue a career in a health care field. By the end of the year, Andrey told me he decided he wanted to become a nurse,” she recalled the moment Privin found his dream career.

“Andrey was a really, really nice guy who was always so positive and not afraid to tell people he loved them,” she added. “There’s a big hole he left behind.”

Lukas Mikelionis is a reporter for FoxNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @LukasMikelionis.