Three Visitors Swept Over Vernal Fall in Yosemite National Park

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Date: July 20, 2011

Group of Family and Friends on Day Trip to Yosemite

Three visitors are presumed dead after plunging over Vernal Fall in Yosemite National Park yesterday afternoon at approximately 1:30 p.m. Hormiz David, 22 year old male, of Modesto, CA, Ninos Yacoub, 27 year old male, of Turlock, CA, and Ramina Badal, 21 year old female, of Manteca, CA, came to the park for a day trip with a group of family and friends.  

The group was witnessed entering the water above Vernal Fall, approximately 25 feet from the precipice. Witnesses reported to park officials that several people urged the group member to step back from the river, since it was flowing swiftly and extremely cold. The area is signed as a dangerous area, and the group had crossed a metal guardrail placed there to keep visitors away from the dangerous fast moving water.  

The park is still seeing the effects of a huge winter snowpack and a cool spring and summer. The Merced River, which feeds the 317 foot Vernal Fall, is still running at spring conditions with significant water levels resulting in a swift, dangerous current. The hike up the Mist Trail to Vernal Fall is one of the most popular hikes in the park, with upwards of 1,500 people per day ascending the trail to the top of Vernal Fall.  

Visitors are urged to exercise extreme caution around all water in Yosemite National Park. Park rivers and streams have been running at higher than normal levels for this time of year, and will remain high for several weeks.  

There have been six water related deaths in Yosemite National Park this year, including this incident. Two hikers drowned in the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir on June 29, 2011, and a hiker slipped and fell into the Merced River on the Mist Trail on May 13, 2011.

The Mist Trail had been closed since the incident to facilitate Search and Rescue Operations. The trail has now reopened. Yosemite National Park Rangers will continue search efforts throughout the day. These efforts consist primarily of combing each side of the Merced River looking for the victims.

Over the years, there have been several cases of visitors going over Vernal Fall, as well as other waterfalls, such as Upper Yosemite Fall.


Update, 7/22/11:
Search for Missing Hikers Continues; Adequate Personnel are Available

Yosemite National Park Rangers are continuing their search efforts for the three hikers who were swept over Vernal Fall this past Tuesday. The park is being assisting by multiple county Search and Rescue Teams. The park will continue the search through the weekend, and assess the situation early next week.

Although the park sincerely appreciates the individuals and groups who have volunteered their services, there are currently adequate resources available to continue search and rescue operations. Therefore, the park will not be able to utilize any further volunteers at this point.

The search is being concentrated on the banks of the Merced River below Vernal Fall. Whitewater conditions, combined with slippery surfaces, make the search area dangerous and only highly trained search and rescue personnel are being utilized in the field at this time.

Again, the park would like to extend its appreciation to those who came forward to assist in the search and rescue operation.

Last updated: March 1, 2015

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