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. Jaf

    I've been to those falls, it won't end well if they went over, the drop is about 300 feet and the bottom is jagged rocks, it's not even a pool. I hope they are ok.

    July 20, 2011 at 10:26 am | Report abuse |
    • jose

      you hope they are ok? are you serious. Go back and re-read your own post and try again.

      July 20, 2011 at 10:36 am | Report abuse |
  2. Passerby

    they got the whole thing as it happened on world star hip hop dot com- it's sad to see and breath taking...

    July 20, 2011 at 10:31 am | Report abuse |
  3. CarolinaGirl

    I've hiked this waterfall. It is clearly posted and illustrated in at least 10 languages that you should not swim in the pool at the top of the waterfall. It clearly states that if you swim in the pool, you may go over the falls, and you WILL DIE. Sadly, people still swim at the top despite the signs.

    July 20, 2011 at 10:31 am | Report abuse |
    • James M

      It would not surprise me at all to learn that there are people who swim in the pool *because* of the signs. It's probably worth noting that most people who go in that water don't die.

      July 20, 2011 at 7:21 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Skottikins

    Oh wow...Thats near my hometown. I hope their families find them safe.

    July 20, 2011 at 10:32 am | Report abuse |
    • Dr. Bombay

      You're an idiot

      July 20, 2011 at 10:44 am | Report abuse |
    • tuffyturf

      Yeah, doesn't look like they made it. They already made an episode of 1000 ways to die about it.

      Reason #467 of 1000 Ways to Die

      "Drop Dead Gorges"

      July 20, 2011 at 10:53 am | Report abuse |
  5. strato

    If I am at a location and read: "Do Not go beyond guard rails". I believe the park management people and I do not cross the rails. People also die on Half Dome by crossing to the outside of the rails. If the park management would use the phrase: "Do not cross the rails or you WILL CERTAINLY DIE" .....there'd still be idiots attempting to impress others with their "daring bravery". Some would get lucky – others would die.

    July 20, 2011 at 10:33 am | Report abuse |
    • been there

      Actually, that's what the warning signs do say at the falls...I was shocked when I visited years ago. The signs say "YOU WILL GO OVER THE FALLS AND YOU WILL DIE"

      July 20, 2011 at 10:38 am | Report abuse |
    • Matt

      Yeah well we also have "Wet Paint" signs and people are still stupid

      July 20, 2011 at 10:51 am | Report abuse |
    • humanbean

      Don't interfere with natural selection.

      July 20, 2011 at 11:05 am | Report abuse |
  6. Dave

    Yosemite is beautiful, Mother Nature at it's finest. Natural beauty also has inherant dangers that must be understood and respected. Unfortunately accidents happen sometimes. I'm sorry for the family's loss.

    July 20, 2011 at 10:35 am | Report abuse |
  7. jose

    People also lean over a railing to get a $4 baseball.

    Even Darwin is surprised at the idiocy.

    July 20, 2011 at 10:37 am | Report abuse |
  8. Sam

    Just a few days ago, I watched another family swept away by water. Now am wondering why these people were in this falls to begin with. There is a consequence for just about everything you do. It is always wise to stop and think before you engage in some kind of action that could have severe consequences. If you play around a waterfall, you just might be caught up in it.

    July 20, 2011 at 10:39 am | Report abuse |
  9. Bay area man

    These young people are members of our youth group. This is sad news and our prayers go out to them and their families

    July 20, 2011 at 10:41 am | Report abuse |
    • Anne

      I'm so sorry.

      July 20, 2011 at 10:47 am | Report abuse |
    • Craig

      Hello. I am a reporter based in the Yosemite area and working on a story about this tragic accident. You seem you are famliiar with what happened, or at least the group involved. could you please contact me? My number is 209-770-7153.

      July 20, 2011 at 11:00 am | Report abuse |
    • DrewL

      steveo...that's pretty rude. And who said anything about religion? There are all kinds of "youth groups". Show a little respect, for crying out loud. Who knows why they were in the water? Perhaps one accidentally fell in and the others were trying to save him/her. Geez.

      July 20, 2011 at 11:01 am | Report abuse |
    • Sue

      I'm so very sorry... what a tragedy!

      July 20, 2011 at 11:04 am | Report abuse |
    • RHinWI

      My thoughts and prayers are with the families. Tragic.

      July 20, 2011 at 11:11 am | Report abuse |
    • steveo


      No reason to show respect to people who break the rules.

      July 20, 2011 at 2:12 pm | Report abuse |
  10. EBS

    I would think that it was an accident, not taking an intentional risk. I'm from New York and we are going there next month, we are planning on doing the Mist Trail. We certainly will not go where we're not supposed to!

    July 20, 2011 at 10:41 am | Report abuse |
  11. Rob MI

    I remember the top of Vernal Falls well as it was the first hike I took in Yosemite. Provided it didn't change since I'd been there, I remember there being signs in several (6?) languages that emphatically stated to not enter the water or get close to the water's edge. Each language ended with wording similar to "You will get swept over the falls and you will die"–and it was the forcefulness of the "you will die" (not just "you will get hurt" or "you will suffer bodily harm" that made those signs stand out in my head.

    July 20, 2011 at 10:41 am | Report abuse |
  12. Sumeet

    Horrible news.. Something similar happened in India just this week. Flash Flood captured on Video...
    Be careful at natural areas guys!!

    The video contains disturbing scenes.

    July 20, 2011 at 10:42 am | Report abuse |
  13. ThatGuyBill

    Really? Its sad to hear that these people may have lost their lives in such a way, but who in their right mind gets into the water anywhere close to a waterfall? A 317-foot-high fall at that. Sad story.

    July 20, 2011 at 10:42 am | Report abuse |
  14. Roxana

    this is truly a tragedy. Yosemite is a special place, full of history, mystery and unpredictable wilderness. It's the type of place that alters your state of mind with its sheer natural beauty. People who engage in outdoor activities like hiking, backpacking or climbing must come prepared with the right equipment and gear, I was in Yosemite last week and people were hiking the Mist Trail with sandals, non-grip shoes, jeans and limited to no water. This is a very strenuous hike.

    July 20, 2011 at 10:49 am | Report abuse |
    • Max

      What's wrong with hiking in jeans and how do you know they had little to no water?

      July 21, 2011 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
  15. John R

    I have, possibly, a little more life experience than some posting. I haven't seen a reason yet as to why anyone would be in or close enough to the water, but I do know that all of us, at some point in your life, did something dumb and got out of it because of luck, someone's generosity or foregiveness, your own strength, etc, etc. If nature really had a 0% tolerance for accidents, stupidity, mistakes, etc., the world's population probably wouldn't even be 100,000...

    July 20, 2011 at 10:53 am | Report abuse |
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