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. Joe

    People like you make me sick. I know all 3 of these people personally and their families are very worried because they haven't found them yet. They are young in there late and early 20's no one at this age deserves to die. We all make stupid mistakes, so instead of being a complete jerk about it, how about you do everyone a favor and pray for a safe return home for these 3 young people.

    July 20, 2011 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • lori

      Wow I can't believe all the terrible comments people are writing.... You all should be ashamed of yourself. 3 people lost there lives because they made a mistake. I feel for the Families involved

      July 20, 2011 at 5:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Max

      Joe, it's understandable that the family would be grief stricken and believe they might see their loved ones again (in this world). But people don't get swept over this fall and survive. I'll pray for their souls all the same.

      July 21, 2011 at 7:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Corey

      My heart goes out to their families. They made a stupid mistake and paid for it with their lives. We all make bad decisions her or there..... . What amazes me here is how disrespectful many people are toward people who died a horrible death and to their families who are drowning in grief. It doesn't surprise me that most people who call them stupid don't know how to spell themselves. So much for intelligence.

      July 21, 2011 at 7:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bob

      "her or there...", looks like the people who call them stupid are not the only stupid people who can't spell.

      July 22, 2011 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Rachel M

    Too late, they had kids. On a hopeful note, their kids were smart enough to stay behind the fence. Maybe they were lucky enough not to get saddled with the stupid gene?

    July 20, 2011 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Rachel M

    "no one at this age deserves to die"

    Nope. And yet they kill themselves anyway. What are you going to do?

    July 20, 2011 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Jack L.

    Disgusting comment.

    July 20, 2011 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse |
  5. KLS

    The water builds, moving quite slowly. You think you're okay except for this ROAR somewhere ahead. Then you see the horizon line and you know you are about to die. Digging in a power bladed kayak paddle you feel the strong undertow. Harder. Deeper. Bite deeply. Everything is in slow motion. Soon it gets easier. Fear lends strength. The eddy line is just ahead if you can only make it. No mistakes. Not one. You don't make any. There. The portage point you should never have missed in the first place, there are big signs afterall. But, remember, everyone makes mistakes.

    July 20, 2011 at 1:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • James M

      KLS it's very hard to explain water to people who have never *experienced* water. Obviously you have. The people who need to understand, won't.

      July 20, 2011 at 7:46 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Are you kidding me?

    They were probably young hikers that got caught up in the beauty surrouunding them. I have camped at Yosemite several times and have hiked this trail. It is one of the prettiest hikes in the park, but true to the name mist trail it is very slippery and dangerous. When you are surrounded by the tranquilty and beauty you also have to keep in mind the danger surrounding you. This is something that many young people don't think about beacuse in your 20's you tend to think your invincible. So, for those of you that are bashing on these people, why don't you get your lazy *** off of the computer and go hike the trail and you would know how easy it would be to fall in. This is not Disneyland and yes people should be responsible for their actions but you should not be so disrespectful when they don't know what they are talking about. Ny heart goes out to the families of this tragic ACCIDENT!!!!!

    July 20, 2011 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
  7. arjar binks

    Bro, use some articles, pronouns, better comma usage and generally better grammar than the average 2nd grader and you may have more credibility spewing such absurd and hateful crap. Maybe we should eliminate dumb pseudo-intellectual hicks who address themselves as A.M. Stephens, so as to advance the general intelligence of the next generation. Please just spare me the inconvenience of having to destroy you verbally-buy a noose and put it to good use.

    July 20, 2011 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Are you kidding me?

    They were young hikers that got caught up in the beauty surrouunding them. I have camped at Yosemite several times and have hiked this trail. It is one of the prettiest hikes in the park, but true to the name mist trail it is very slippery and dangerous. When you are surrounded by the tranquilty and beauty you also have to keep in mind the danger surrounding you. This is something that many young people don't think about beacuse in your 20's you tend to think your invincible. So, for those of you that are bashing on these people, why don't you get your lazy *** off of the computer and go hike the trail and you would know how easy it would be to fall in. This is not Disneyland and yes people should be responsible for their actions but you should not be so disrespectful when you don't know what they are talking about. My heart goes out to the families of this tragic ACCIDENT!!!!!

    July 20, 2011 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Andreas Moser

    Yosemite is the most beautiful place in the world.
    And this one is a close second: http://andreasmoser.wordpress.com/2011/07/07/i-discovered-paradise/

    July 20, 2011 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
  10. CJA

    The trouble is that it is easy to hike to the top of this waterfall so people who normally don't go to places like this actually go there. These people are not used to the "real world" and expect everyplace to be as safe as Disneyland. All of the rock up there and on most of Yosemite is polished smooth as a granite counter top. The water is moving very fast, it's basically white foam by shooting horizontally before falling over a 300 foot cliff. Nothing but your own common sense to keeps you out of this. In normal years there is a nice pool at the top but now that pool is a mass of white water that you don't want to go near.

    July 20, 2011 at 2:07 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Dean

    Every year someone dies at Yosemite this way. Yes...it's sad. But sometimes people pay the ultimate price for their stupidity.

    July 20, 2011 at 2:27 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Mmmmm

    I guess this means 317 is a very lucky number...

    July 20, 2011 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse |
  13. scott s

    Stupid people good riddance that's what's wrong today common sense or lack of shouldn't even be warning signs common sense tells you no people are not grabbing power lines cause there is no signs common sense not so common anymore need to create a flu that kills these idiots that have caused excessive warnings everywhere like one on a chainsaw that says can cause injury or death if you have to be told that you shouldn't be buying or owning one! Got to go run with scissors in my hand on the freeway since there is no warning about that on either

    July 20, 2011 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Stephen Statler

    Hopefully, the people watching kept their heads and kept snapping pictures to add to the collection of photographs already taken by their friends who assisted them in crossing the barriers and taking the first photos. Would suck if after all this, no one remembered to keep taking the photos. Clearly, common sense and worry for loss of life took a back seat during this episode. But as a libertarian I feel it was the right of these people to do precisely what they did - ignore government sanctioned warnings and take whatever pictures they wanted. KUDOS to them and the group they were with for preserving the dignity of their life (albeit short-lived) and using their own good judgement and possibly taking some of the greatest pictures they will ever see... oops.. well guess the subjects of the picture won't see the pictures, but everyone else gets to.... YEAH !!!

    July 20, 2011 at 5:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • ils

      Maybe it was a suicide pact. Otherwise, it would be the epitome of stupidity and three people together cannot be THAT stupid. One maybe, but not three.

      July 20, 2011 at 9:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • George

      ils: Stupidity is a disease; we all need to be careful, lest we catch it.

      July 20, 2011 at 10:27 pm | Report abuse |
  15. thatsjarrod

    Sometimes you just have to be a bit smarter than the waterfall.

    July 20, 2011 at 6:22 pm | Report abuse |
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