Woman who died after leap from waterfall was a UNC Charlotte grad

Hossein- zadeh
Hossein- zadeh

The woman who died Sunday after jumping from a waterfall in Avery County had just started a job at a local design firm after earning a master’s degree in architecture at UNC Charlotte, say the co-workers and teachers who knew her.

About two months ago, Sheida Hosseinzadeh, 26, landed a job as an architect for Shook Kelley, a design company with offices in Charlotte and Los Angeles.

Warning signs had been posted but apparently were not up at the time.

It was just the next step for a talented young woman who spoke three languages and dreamed of working at a large architectural firm, said Mona Azarbayjani, an assistant professor of architecture at UNC Charlotte who Hosseinzadeh assisted with research projects for nearly two years.

“She was such an asset to the research,” Azarbayjani said. “She was just so bright and very lively. She was always laughing.”

Authorities say Hosseinzadeh died after leaping off the top of Elk River Falls, a 60-foot waterfall in Avery County. After diving off a rock, she hit shallow water and died of injuries caused by the impact, according to the WBTV, the Observer’s news partner.

“I can’t even imagine how her family (is) dealing with this,” Azarbayjani said.

Sheida Hosseinzadeh moved to Charlotte from Iran in fall 2013.

The youngest of three sisters, Hosseinzadeh moved to Charlotte from Iran in fall 2013, Azarbayjani said. She earned a bachelor’s degree in architecture at the Iran University of Science and Technology in 2012, according to her LinkedIn profile.

She had a knack for helping us look at something in a way that we hadn’t considered.

Scott Betzold, managing partner of D3 Studio

“She had a tremendous career ahead of her,” said Scott Betzold, the managing partner of D3 Studio, a planning and architecture firm in Plaza Midwood where Hosseinzadeh interned a year ago. “She had a knack for helping us look at something in a way that we hadn’t considered.”

After graduation, Hosseinzadeh interviewed for a job at Shook Kelley. Terry Shook, the firm’s founding partner, hired her on the spot.

She was a shining star.

Michael Dunning, principal owner at Shook Kelley

There, she worked on a complex project with Michael Dunning, one of the firm’s principals.

“She was a shining star – not only (in) her work ethic and aptitude but just in terms of how she began to fit in with the group here in our office,” Dunning said.

The Asheville-based National Forests in North Carolina is investigating Hosseinzadeh’s death since it happened on national forestry property, said agency spokeswoman Patty Matteson.

Signs warning visitors against jumping from cliffs had been posted along the trail near the waterfall but “from our understanding...they had been taken down,” Matteson said. She said authorities are working to put the warning signs back.

Jonathan McFadden: 704-358-6045, @JmcfaddenObsGov