Hikers presumed dead after falling over Yosemite waterfall
Waterfalls like Yosemite's Vernal Fall have been swollen by near-record snowmelt in the high Sierra.
July 20th, 2011
09:30 PM ET

Hikers presumed dead after falling over Yosemite waterfall

[Updated 9:30 p.m. ET] Three Yosemite National Park tourists are presumed dead after climbing over a guardrail into the Merced River, park officials said Wednesday.

"So far we have seen no clues or no evidence of any of the bodies," said Kari Cobb, a spokeswoman for Yosemite National Park. "We are presuming that all three of them are dead ... we will scale up the search once the water levels have receded and we can insert crews to look for the bodies in the river safely."

Ramina Badal, 21, and Hormiz David, 22, both of Modesto, California; and Ninos Yacoub, 27, of Turlock, California, had hiked the popular Mist Trail to the top of Vernal Fall at about 1:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Vernal Fall is 317 feet high. The Mist Trail is the most popular trail in Yosemite National Park and attracts between 1,500 and 2,500 people a day, according to Kari Cobb, a spokeswoman for Yosemite National Park.

Witnesses unsuccessfully urged the hikers to return to shore as they watched them step into the swift, cold water about 25 feet from the cliff's edge, park officials said.

There are signs at the head of the trail that warn of danger and fast-moving water, the park said.

"Visitors that want to go around guardrails ... it's up to them," Cobb said. "It's something that does happen and it's completely up to the visitor to know what safety concerns are around and take responsibility for their own actions."

Yosemite rangers continued to search Wednesday, concentrating on each side of the Merced River downstream from the fall, the release said.

After a huge winter snow and a cool spring and summer, the park's rivers and streams have been running at higher-than-normal levels for this year, and will remain high for several weeks, park officials said.

Before Tuesday's incident, there were three water-related deaths in Yosemite National Park this year.

[Posted 7:46 a.m. ET] A search is under way in Yosemite National Park for three people who may have been swept over the 317-foot-high Vernal Fall on the Merced River in eastern California.

Park rangers have closed the Mist Trail to the fall until at least noon Wednesday, saying they are conducting a search after receiving unconfirmed reports of one or more visitors being swept over the fall.

Witnesses told CNN affiliate KGPE-TV that three people were swept over the fall around 1:30 p.m. Tuesday.

“I saw the man’s eyes when he went over the falls. That was devastating,” witness Jacob Bibee told KGPE.

Other witnesses said two men and a woman went into the water and over the fall into a rocky pool below.

“I saw two that were holding each other and one that was floating alone through the water. And the reason that I looked was because this woman was screaming, running along the edge of the water,” witness Dean Sabo told KGPE.

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Filed under: California
soundoff (409 Responses)
  1. Lee

    scary stuff.

    July 20, 2011 at 8:12 am | Report abuse |
  2. db

    People do strange things when it gets hot outside.

    July 20, 2011 at 8:13 am | Report abuse |
    • steve harnack

      Wrong state. Very pleasant 70s here in California.

      July 20, 2011 at 10:12 am | Report abuse |
    • Rachel M

      People do strange things in California.

      July 20, 2011 at 12:36 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Keyser

    Too many details.

    July 20, 2011 at 8:17 am | Report abuse |
    • Keyser's causin

      Hahaha.... And some people complain that CNN never tells the entire story..... You crack me up dude!!!

      July 20, 2011 at 8:31 am | Report abuse |
    • steve harnack

      @keserscousin, Sarcasm is wasted on some folks, eh?

      July 20, 2011 at 10:15 am | Report abuse |
  4. Chris

    Why do people break basic rules of survival? I mean, not swimming near huge waterfalls is right up there with not teasing grizzly bears and not using a live cobra for a belt.

    July 20, 2011 at 8:21 am | Report abuse |
    • Jay


      July 20, 2011 at 8:23 am | Report abuse |
    • mm

      you got it, Chris!

      July 20, 2011 at 8:26 am | Report abuse |
    • Julie

      buah hahahahaha Horrible incident but super funny reply!

      July 20, 2011 at 8:28 am | Report abuse |
    • Rachel M

      It's not really their fault in this case. Someone threw a baseball near the falls, and as we all know, it's perfectly acceptable to stupidly kill yourself if you're trying to catch a baseball.

      July 20, 2011 at 8:34 am | Report abuse |
    • Radgast

      you said all that is required regarding a comment, nice !

      July 20, 2011 at 8:36 am | Report abuse |
    • kake79

      Ooh! Live cobra belt. We should pitch that idea at fashion week. Or, we could give them away in those gift bags at Hollywood parties.

      July 20, 2011 at 10:17 am | Report abuse |
    • katie w

      Let's not forget your parents choosing to give birth to a moron like you! These people are dead and their famalies will someday read these blogs. You are living proof that you can't fix stupid!

      July 20, 2011 at 1:01 pm | Report abuse |
  5. mm

    Swollen rivers from flooding=faster currents and more debris. Don't these people know anything???

    July 20, 2011 at 8:25 am | Report abuse |
  6. Mr. Darwin

    As I was saying....

    July 20, 2011 at 8:27 am | Report abuse |
    • Stephen

      Now that is some funny stuff right there... Wonder if they will show this one on "1000 ways to die"?

      July 20, 2011 at 8:35 am | Report abuse |
  7. Frank

    The government needs to regulate these falls as they are too dangerous. Since people are not held accountable for their actions these days, they should put a fence up, or build a big pipe around the falls. Mother Nature should not become a further danger to dumbells who get too close to the falls.

    July 20, 2011 at 8:27 am | Report abuse |
    • Sillyrabbit

      Nice try Frank. Troll somewhere else.

      July 20, 2011 at 8:29 am | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      Yes, let's invite the government in. They know how to fix things...

      July 20, 2011 at 8:36 am | Report abuse |
    • yusakhar

      No, we do not abolish nature for the sake of airheads who don't know what it is. "Mr Darwin" has it right - people who virtually commit suicide by swimming in the rushing torrent at the head of a high waterfall also drop themselves out of the gene pool.

      July 20, 2011 at 8:36 am | Report abuse |
    • Radgast

      sounds like they were fully unccountable, unfortunately

      July 20, 2011 at 8:38 am | Report abuse |
    • Rachel M

      Good idea, but Rethuglicans wouldn't allow it. Something about "liberty", "common sense" and "Darwinism". How many more mentally handicapped people have to be swept to their deaths before we can get some common sense waterfall control in this country?

      July 20, 2011 at 8:38 am | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      Mentally handicapped? Where did you hear that? Pretty sure you made it up.

      According to the article linked below, they climbed over the rail to get a better look and encouraged their children to do the same. Did you hear that? RAIL. They climbed over the RAIL. Protection was provided and they chose to disregard it. The government can't protect people from every conceivable danger. We need less government and more individual accountability. Based on what's been reported so far, these folks made poor choices and paid a tragic price for doing so.


      July 20, 2011 at 9:01 am | Report abuse |
    • Rachel M

      Brian, don't you know that it's the government's job to protect us all from making poor choices? If a railing was there, then it wasn't tall enough. Our federal overseers need to blow up this waterfall. For our own good.

      July 20, 2011 at 12:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • John McClane

      Too bad you didn't die. Now you're going to foist your idiocy on the rest of us.

      July 20, 2011 at 1:17 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Larry

    Stupid people will always find a way to kill themselves, whether it's wading into a stream at a waterfall, startling a momma bear with cubs, or even trying to catch a ball at a baseball game. That's why it's called "survival of the fittest."

    July 20, 2011 at 8:34 am | Report abuse |
    • Norm

      Actually, no it's not. Fitness is determined by a species' ability to overcome persistent environmental and predatory forces, not accidental ones. Please stop pretending that you know what you are talking about and that you (or your "humor") are 'smart'. Thanks.

      July 20, 2011 at 10:27 am | Report abuse |
    • Cranky

      I don't know about you, but I would consider a waterfall to be a fairly persistent environmental force.

      July 20, 2011 at 2:08 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Mike

    Survival of the fittest. Bye!

    July 20, 2011 at 8:35 am | Report abuse |
  10. bezerkur

    what is there to say except theyre all dead. tragic deal

    July 20, 2011 at 8:36 am | Report abuse |
  11. Karl

    Natural selection. Every year lots of people die by stupidity both at Yosemite and Yellowstone Nat. Park.
    A park ranger at Yellowstone told me that despite all the signs and the obviously boiling water about 6 people lose
    a hand or foot to the mineral pools around the geysers each year. Another six or more have to be the one to get that closeup picture of the momma bear or the Moose. At Yosemite, its the rock climbers usually. What would
    possess someone, let alone 3 people get into the river is beyond imagination.

    July 20, 2011 at 8:36 am | Report abuse |
    • GatorALLin

      .....well you have to wonder if one went in too far and got sucked into the current and then the other 2 jumped in to save them and were lost also..... Ouch either way.... so sad. Might be up for Darwin award. It think people get lost in the scenic beauty and forget the rocks are slippery and easy to forget how dangerous these great places can be.

      July 20, 2011 at 10:42 am | Report abuse |
    • James M

      The reports are that one person *fell* in, and two others tried to save him and also lost control. There's an ongoing thread that these people were just ignorantly swimming in the rapids or something. They were in a dangerous place, probably didn't quite realize exactly how dangerous (despite being warned about it by hikers on the trail), and one slip led to disaster for all three. The whole thing probably took a matter of seconds from "standing near the rapids" to "drowning and going over the falls".

      July 20, 2011 at 6:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Max

      They didn't drown. They were in the water after slipping for probably no more than 12 seconds before being smashed on the rocks. Very sad, but what were they thinking? BTW, whoever was holding the child in the water for the photo op ought to do some jail time.

      July 21, 2011 at 6:41 pm | Report abuse |
  12. lagtat

    I've been to the top of Vernal Falls and with that drop and all the signs there warning not to go into the water, It's amazing anyone would take a swim around there.

    July 20, 2011 at 8:37 am | Report abuse |
    • James M

      I don't think anyone was "taking a swim." Someone slipped into the water, obviously from a lot closer than you'd sensibly go, but they didn't go in the water on purpose.

      July 20, 2011 at 6:57 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Non seether

    Frank must be on the liberal side. Instead of regulating Nature, let's try using common sense . I'm sorry these people went over the falls but anything in this natural world demands respect...

    July 20, 2011 at 8:41 am | Report abuse |
    • steve harnack

      Sarcasm is wasted on conservatives because they all seem to lack a sense of humor. Insults are the only thing that they find to be funny.

      July 20, 2011 at 10:21 am | Report abuse |
    • John McClane

      Yes, if the world were occupied only by conservatives, we wouldn't have these pesky automobiles or computers to clutter up our daily lives.

      July 20, 2011 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Larry

    What is the likely hood that alcohol was involved??

    July 20, 2011 at 8:44 am | Report abuse |
    • 34

      likelihood genius

      July 20, 2011 at 8:56 am | Report abuse |
  15. Yoga Bear

    We do not need the falls to be piped. That is absurd. Tragic story but these people lacked common sense. The Sierra rivers are very full right now and that much is very obvious.

    July 20, 2011 at 8:45 am | Report abuse |
    • John

      why doesn't anybody in California understand sarcasm

      July 20, 2011 at 8:46 am | Report abuse |
    • BanTheFalls

      Ban falls. They kill.

      July 20, 2011 at 9:00 am | Report abuse |
    • Rachel M

      Commonsense waterfall control now! Do it for the children!

      July 20, 2011 at 12:42 pm | Report abuse |
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