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. Aaron Bivins

    Disrespect a man and you might get away with it. Disrespect nature and you'll pay every time. Very sad.

    July 20, 2011 at 9:26 am | Report abuse |
    • OkieDokie

      Very sad!

      July 20, 2011 at 9:33 am | Report abuse |
  2. CalDude

    Next...California legislatures bans state and national parks for safety reason.

    July 20, 2011 at 9:27 am | Report abuse |
  3. mabel floyd

    i am not surprised that someone broke the rules and fell over the falls. God love them. however, in this society where everyone wants their own way about everything : students have the "right" to be rude, to dress inappropriately and the parents are outraged that their children are not allowed to display this behavior-after all their "civil rights" are being abused. the parents themselves are dressed sloppy, they overindulge in food, alcohol, and blame anyone who points out their behavior is harmful to their health and is bad parenting-after all their civil right is be a bad parent and a person who abuses their health . the t-baggers insisting that their rights are abused when they are not allowed to run the country without interference. people are upset if the "wrong " person is elected and it is their civil right to wreck the country if they do no get their way. now i wonder why we are shocked when rules are ignored . the fact that sometime the breaking of rules is fatal is hardly surprising to the sane people left to hope this trend runs it's course soon.

    July 20, 2011 at 9:29 am | Report abuse |
    • JoeT

      how in the hell is a tragic accident, regardless of cause, a political statement ????

      July 20, 2011 at 9:39 am | Report abuse |
    • Shay

      Shut up. Your rant is overkill.

      July 20, 2011 at 9:42 am | Report abuse |
    • But...

      I am sure people did stupid things even before the concept of civil rights was invented. It's called human nature.

      July 20, 2011 at 9:42 am | Report abuse |
    • iamthefredman

      Darwin's theory works again !

      July 20, 2011 at 9:44 am | Report abuse |
    • HandfulOfPeter

      I knew this would turn into a political rant. Mabel, turn off the radio sweetie! Live your life!

      July 20, 2011 at 9:46 am | Report abuse |
    • iamthefredman

      Mabel Floyd you have said it all. Disregard the negative posters below. They are part of the lefist liberal media complex that has over decades brainwashed most Americans into the belief that "you can do anything, be free, live your life anyway you want, and don't let anyone stop you from doing anything". It all leads to people living like this and doing anything they want. Never mind rules, laws, common sense and the inate human instinct to survive. Idiots ! Darwin was right.

      July 20, 2011 at 9:51 am | Report abuse |
    • prsfan2010

      Wow Mabel, you sound a person who is just filled to the brim with anger and frustration. For all we know this may have just been a simple accident. You and I weren't there so we don't know. I find it very inappropriate that in the wake of 3 people likely dying in this accident you go on a rant about the way the country is run. You must have been holding all this in, about to burst at the seams, just waited on the slightest story to come along so that you can unleash. I think you might need some counseling.

      July 20, 2011 at 11:09 am | Report abuse |
  4. chillipepper

    Must be fun what a thrilling ride.

    July 20, 2011 at 9:31 am | Report abuse |
  5. Scottish Mama

    And a law should be put in place that no one should be able to chew gum and walk near the falls.

    July 20, 2011 at 9:34 am | Report abuse |
    • Sarah

      OR they should not be allowed to walk so close to the falls that they have a chance of falling in...is that already a law in place? hm?

      July 20, 2011 at 9:55 am | Report abuse |
    • Scottish Mama

      This was a reply to Frank on page 1 of this thread. CNN showed it after his reply and now it is here.

      July 20, 2011 at 10:29 am | Report abuse |
  6. robert breisch

    Tragic as it is-you never put your body into water that moves that fast or next to a 200 ft waterfall. I did a brief internship in Yosemite in 1978 for my park management degree.The falls are awesome and at the pool talked about-it appears very calm-yet you know where you are and only fools tread into the Merced River in Yosemite when its roaring along its path.Its not even safe after it goes over the falls.
    Its tragic-and my prayers go for the families left behind

    July 20, 2011 at 9:35 am | Report abuse |
  7. Ken

    Tragedy strikes, which means its the "perfect" time to jump on a soap box and preach.

    July 20, 2011 at 9:35 am | Report abuse |
  8. Cal

    I just did the Mist Trail hike with my family and was at the top of the falls. There's lots of places to slip and fall in. Once you fall in, it's over. I read that 12 to 15 people die on average each year at Yosmite and this year is even worse with all the melting snow. I had my 11 year old son with me on the hike up mist trail and I was a nervous reck by the time we got to the top. Scary place with lots of places to have an accident.

    July 20, 2011 at 9:36 am | Report abuse |
    • iamthefredman

      Places like this should be off-limits and kept 100% natural. Close the trails. There are enough photos of this place for all eternity. Look it up on Google if you really need to see it up close. Stupidity is everywhere and common sense has disappeared in America.

      July 20, 2011 at 9:46 am | Report abuse |
    • Rachel M

      Ban all people from Yosemite because it's too dangerous for the stupid people? I say we FORCE stupid people to Yosemite in the hopes that they'll remove their substandard genes from the pool.

      July 20, 2011 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
  9. rufus

    Let's spend some money (that we don't have) and let government solve this problem.

    July 20, 2011 at 9:36 am | Report abuse |
    • mobrule

      yep, form a committee, a new govt agency, have an investigation and then assign federal nannies to hold hikers' hands.

      July 20, 2011 at 9:40 am | Report abuse |
  10. rom smith

    Well.... Sorry to hear this but there are risks in everything in life. This one they paid to play... I never like to hear someone die but you should live everyday like its your last because as this shows you never know.

    July 20, 2011 at 9:37 am | Report abuse |
  11. Benny

    Attrition at it's best! My sorrow goes out to the families, but that's "as many as three people" less. Keep up the good work Mother Nature! Keep it up!

    July 20, 2011 at 9:37 am | Report abuse |
  12. BobE

    Last Wednesday I hiked up to Vernal Falls. The Merced River was the deepest I've ever seen it. I can't believe anyone would enter that river above the falls. It's very sad to learn that some people make such poor judgements, but I'll say a prayer for them.

    July 20, 2011 at 9:37 am | Report abuse |
  13. Orlando Florida

    In 2009, the latest year figures are available, 382 people drowned in Florida, according to the state Department of Health. Of those victims, 66 were younger than 4 years old, and most of those young victims drowned in residential pools.

    July 20, 2011 at 9:38 am | Report abuse |
  14. Alyssa

    Wow, I've hiked to the top of that waterfall. There is no reason for those people to be in that area, it's fenced off. There's a huge swimming hole a short walk away, why they would be in the immediate line of the waterfall means someone was an idiot and hopped the fence.

    July 20, 2011 at 9:38 am | Report abuse |
  15. Alyssa

    Check out this picture of it...
    http://geoimages.berkeley( dot )edu/Waterfalls/ClarksPointVernalFalls( dot )html

    July 20, 2011 at 9:40 am | Report abuse |
    • But...

      WWOOOWWW!!! Thanks!

      July 20, 2011 at 9:45 am | Report abuse |
    • James M

      There will always be people determined to be on the other side of that guard rail, just because the rail is there.
      That picture is worth 1000 words. Even in that picture, there appear to be at least five people sitting or standing *on* the railing. That's probably within their personal comfort zone, even though it's silly. So the victims in the accident were completely on the other side of the railing, and one or more of them put a foot into the water. Rapids like that can easily sweep you away just with a foot. Then a panic rescue attempt can easily turn tragic as it did in this case. I've seen accidents happen on much more calm rapids, I've even seen water like this tear boats apart and bend canoes into unrecognizable shapes. People were yelling at them to not be inside the railing. Because the railing itself might have been a barrier they wanted to "overcome", yelling at them about it might have made them even more resolute in remaining there. I wonder if they even recognized the danger until the accident was happening? It's easy to be fooled by water. I never turn my back to a river or to an ocean, ever.

      July 20, 2011 at 7:12 pm | Report abuse |
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