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Half Dome death: Jerry Brown sees danger at Yosemite

August 3, 2011 |  9:42 am

Half Dome: Yosemite's danger apparent to governor on a recent visit

Jerry Brown and wife Anne Gust were visiting Yosemite National Park when three tourists tumbled over Vernal Falls after climbing over a metal rail. After the most recent fatal fall at the park at Half Dome, the California governor noted that the park was more dangerous at this time of year.

“It was clear to me. That water is treacherous,” Brown told the Associated Press. “I was up at Nevada Falls, and there was some kid standing up about the falls. It made me shake just looking at him. It’s dangerous. If they slipped, they would have went right over.”

Brown said signs warning about the danger of the swollen Yosemite rivers were easy to spot.

“They have a sign there that says if you get into the water you will die. That’s pretty clear to me,” he said. “I read the sign, but I didn’t need to read the sign.”

Officials are still investigating the death of a woman who fell 600 feet from Yosemite National Park’s Half Dome on Sunday.

Haley LaFlemme, 26, was descending the rain-soaked face of the granite dome around noon when she fell, making her the 14th person to die in the park this year and the first to die on Half Dome since June 2009.

Though the cause of the fall is still under investigation, park officials have said they believe rain might have been a factor. A severe thunderstorm had dumped rain on the dome for several hours Sunday morning, making the granite face slippery. Signs near Half Dome warn hikers not to climb the dome’s 400-foot long cables during rain and lightning, and although some turned around on Sunday, LaFlamme was one of about 20 people who remained.

The incident comes weeks after three hikers from a Modesto-area church group died after they climbed over a metal rail at the top of the park’s popular Vernal Fall and were swept over the 317-foot drop. Three other hikers died earlier this year: two after drowning in the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir on June 29, and another after falling into the Merced River on the Mist Trail on May 13.

Officials have said a large influx of visitors, as well as the park’s swollen waterways, could be contributors to the larger-than-normal fatality rate this year. Yosemite typically sees five or six deaths by the end of July and 12 to 15 by the end of the year, park officials said. The tally also accounts for fatalities from incidents like heart attacks, natural causes and motor vehicle accidents.


Yosemite deaths highest in recent memory

Woman falls to death at Yosemite's Half Dome

Rain may have been factor in woman's plunge

-- Kate Mather

Photo: A view of Half Dome from the Yosemite Village in Yosemite National Park Tuesday, June 9, 2009. Credit: Alex Gallardo / Los Angeles Times