'It just didn't seem real': Mother of two dies after slipping near Lake Tahoe waterfall

LAKE TAHOE, Calif. -- A woman has died after she fell while reaching for a tree branch near a waterfall at Lake Tahoe.

The North Tahoe Fire Protection District identified the woman as 35-year-old Stephanie Espinosa, an entrepreneur and mother of two.

"Stephanie was the core of our family. Growing up she was more of a mother to me than an older sister," her brother Nick Martinez told ABC News. "Not having her here right now and trying to even start your day, we're just sort of at a loss."

Martinez said he found out the news as he was picking up his own two daughters from school.

"It was extremely difficult. As soon as they got in my car I got a call from my mother, who was telling me that her girlfriend told her that Stephanie had fallen into a waterfall and they can't find her. ... It just didn't seem real."

Authorities initially said that Espinosa was taking pictures near the Eagle Falls waterfall when she lost her footing and fell. The North Tahoe Fire Protection District posted on Facebook on Sunday that it had since learned she was actually reaching for a tree branch.

Authorities are reminding visitors to be aware of dangers in the area. The fire district warns not to underestimate the power of waterfalls, rivers, and cold water temperatures.
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