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Yosemite waterfall deaths: 3 hikers swept over falls, presumed dead

July 20, 2011 | 11:10 am

A May 2009 photo of Vernal Falls in Yosemite National Park.

Three hikers who fell over a popular Yosemite waterfall are presumed dead, park officials said late Wednesday morning.

Hormiz David, 22, of Modesto, Ninos Yacoub, 27, of Turlock and Ramina Badal, 21, of Modesto were on a day trip to Yosemite National Park with friends and family Tuesday afternoon when they climbed over a metal guardrail at the top of Vernal Falls near Curry Village in Yosemite Valley, park officials said.

Witnesses told rangers that several people urged the group to get out of the cold, fast-moving water, but the three were swept over the 317-foot falls.

A search-and-rescue effort lasted until Wednesday morning. Park officials said teams would continue to scour the Merced River for the victims.

The trail leading up to the falls, the Mist Trail, has been reopened after it was closed during the initial search.

There have been six water-related deaths in Yosemite this year, including the latest incident, park officials said.

Two hikers drowned in the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir on June 29, and a hiker slipped and fell into the Merced River on the Mist Trail on May 13.

Officials said there were several recorded cases of visitors going over Vernal Falls and other waterfalls in the park.

Because of a larger-than-normal snowpack this winter, rivers and streams in Yosemite and Central California have been especially dangerous in recent months.

Park officials urged visitors to exercise caution when near the park’s waterways. Vernal Falls is one of the park’s most popular attractions, with about 1,500 visitors making the hike to the top of the waterfall each day.


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-- Kate Mather

Photo: A May 2009 photo of Vernal Falls in Yosemite National Park. Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times