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Yosemite hikers were visiting park with church group

July 20, 2011 |  1:57 pm

 The three hikers who were swept away by a waterfall at Yosemite National Park and are now presumed dead were part of a church group from Modesto.

The friends had climbed over a barricade and were in the water about 25 feet from the edge of Vernal Falls on Tuesday, standing, playing and taking photographs, witnesses told Yosemite rangers.

When one of the victims slipped and fell, the other two tried to rescue that person, but were also swept away, park spokesman Scott Gediman said.

VIDEO: Park rangers warn swimmers about deadly waters

The three have been identified as Hormiz David, 22, of Modesto, Ninos Yacoub, 27, of Turlock and Ramina Badal, 21, of Manteca. Earlier reports from Yosemite incorrectly stated that Badal was from Modesto.

Nineveh Paulus, David's aunt, said her nephew -- who went by the name Ninos -- loved to play music and write, was very loyal to his friends and family, and dedicated to his faith.

"He was a very, very religious, very Christian man," she said. "He had a lot of faith, was very positive, very outgoing and just a beautiful soul. He's a good spirit, and God will take care of him."

Paulus said David was in Yosemite with members of the Assyrian Church of the East in Modesto, "enjoying the scene God had created."

A message posted on the church's Facebook page Wednesday morning confirmed the three victims were members of the church.

"Please pray for our dear youth who were lost today at Yosemite: Ninos David, Ninos Yacoub and Ramina Badal. Mar Zaia Cathedral will be open on Wednesday morning @ 10 am for prayer and candle-lighting. Family member, friends, fellow parishioners and all well-wishers are welcome," the message read.

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-- Kate Mather

Photo: Hikers on the Mist Trail, right, are dwarfed by Vernal Falls in Yosemite National Park. Credit: AP

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