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Yosemite falls: Body recovered by authorities

August 6, 2011 | 12:09 pm

Vernal Fall

The body of Yosemite falls hiker Hormiz David, 22, of Modesto has been recovered by Yosemite National Park rangers and a search and rescue team, authorities said Saturday.

David was one of three hikers who slipped over the edge of the 317-foot Vernal Falls on July 19. His body was discovered around 1 p.m. Friday in the Merced River, some 240 feet from the base of the Yosemite falls.

The bodies of his companions, Ninos Yacoub, 27, of Turlock and Ramina Badal, 21, of Manteca remain missing.

The trio had climbed over a guardrail before they were swept over the falls. Every day for almost three weeks, search and rescue teams have combed a three-quarter-mile stretch of river between Vernal Falls Footbridge and the base of Vernal Falls, Yosemite spokeswoman Keri Cob said. The section is one of the most rugged in the Merced River, with high water levels that initially prevented teams from approaching the river’s steep bank.

The water level has receded since the hikers disappeared, with the rate of flow decreasing from 1,000  to about 500 cubic feet per second, Cobb said. This allowed teams to conduct a shoreline search and find David’s body.

As summer progresses and less snowmelt feeds into the water, teams will be able to search closer to the banks of the river. It will be safe for them to dive when the water flow drops to about 60 cubic feet per second, Cobb said.

It took swift-water personnel about 4-1/2 hours to lift the body out of the water with special rigging that stretched across the river. The Mist Trail at the top of Vernal Falls will be closed until noon today and intermittently as the search for Yacoub and Badal continues.

The trail is one of the most popular in the park. Water levels in the area are still high and park officials are warning visitors to exercise extreme caution.

“What visitors need to realize when they come to Yosemite is they’re responsible for knowing the safety concerns in the area, and they need to make appropriate decisions to keep themselves safe,” Cobb said.

This year marks the highest number of deaths in Yosemite in recent memory, which could be due to the high volume of visitors and fast-moving rivers that are swollen from an especially heavy snowpack.  A hiker fell to her death from Half Dome on July 31; 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.


Yosemite deaths highest in recent memory

Woman falls to death at Yosemite's Half Dome

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-- Samantha Schaefer

Photo: A view from the top of Yosemite National Park's Vernal Fall, where three hikers died last month after they slipped off the edge. Credit: Associated Press