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Yosemite waterfall deaths: Families hire consultant to assess safety

July 27, 2011 |  4:37 pm

The families of three hikers who were swept over Yosemite National Park's Vernal Fall last week have hired a consultant to assess whether safety measures were adequate.

Romina Kiryakous, founder of Genesis Behavior Center Inc., will conduct the study, the Modesto Bee reported.

Ramina Badal, 21, of Manteca; Hormiz David, 22, of Modesto; and Ninos Yacoub, 27, of Turlock, were with a church group hiking to the top of the 317-foot waterfall. Witnesses said the three were among several members of the group who climbed over a metal barricade into the water despite posted signs and repeated warnings from other hikers.

They were about 25 feet from the edge of the waterfall when witnesses say Badal slipped. A second person tried to rescue her and then a third tried to save the other two. All three were swept over the waterfall as horrified bystanders and friends watched helplessly.

Kiryakous told the Bee that the signs and railing are not enough.

"I'm not content with that skimpy little rail," Kiryakous said. While at the park, she watched two women washing their hands on the other side of the railing. She plans to release her report Friday.

Meanwhile, rangers have scaled back their search for the bodies, officials confirmed Wednesday.

Teams scoured the banks of the Merced River beneath the waterfall in the days after the July 19 deaths, but treacherous water conditions limited the search to foot patrol and no bodies were found, officials said. Now those teams have been recalled, and rangers will wait until the water level goes down and divers can safely navigate the waters before sending teams out again.

Until then, a ranger will patrol the nearby Mist Trail, keeping an eye out for the victims' bodies.

Park officials said a larger-than-normal snowpack has made the Merced particularly dangerous, though it's a rough portion of the river even in ideal conditions.


After waterfall deaths, Yosemite officials renew warnings

Yosemite waterfall deaths: Witness watched in horror as three were swept away

Chain-reaction rescue killed three at Yosemite

-- Kate Mather

Photo: The vista point at Vernal Fall the day after three people were swept over. Credit: Eric Paul Zamora / The Fresno Bee