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

July 20, 2011 |  5:06 pm

An eyewitness who saw three Yosemite hikers get swept away at Vernal Fall said the trio was warned to get away from the raging waterfall.

Just before the hikers fell in, Jake Bibee, 28, said he saw a man in his 40s leaning out over the waterfall, holding his 6-year-old daughter.

"The little girl is crying and screaming," Bibee said. "There's a 13- or a 14-year-old taking their picture. And everyone at the top of the falls is pissed. I'm kind of a firey guy. I'm yelling at him ... 'Get over here!' "

VIDEO: Park rangers warn swimmers about deadly waters

The man walked back to safety, but three other members of his group had also crossed over a safety barricade.

"They're taking pictures and being stupid," Bibee said. Ramina Badal, 21, of Manteca fell first. Then a  man plunged in after her. They were clinging to each other, Bibee said.

"I'm watching the two of them being swept away," Bibee said. "I'm starting to jet for the edge. It's just instinct."

His friend Amanda Lee pulled him back and told him not to go.

A third person also fell in. The man looked back just as he was being swept over the edge of the falls, Bibee said.

"I knew they were not going to make it," Bibee said. "They're going over the waterfall. When we saw the first two, then I grabbed Amanda and held her head down so she wouldn't see. And I didn't look either. I'd seen two people die. I didn't want to watch another."

Bibee, who grew up in Angels Camp, said he was at Yosemite with Lee, who had never been to the national park. As they hiked up to the falls, Bibee said, they were discussing the dangers of the raging rivers and the force of the water from the melting snowpack.

"A lot of people from the Valley don't respect the water," Bibee said. "But you have to respect the water."


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3 hikers swept over falls, presumed dead

-- Diana Marcum at Yosemite National Park

Photo: Vernal Falls in Yosemite. Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times