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. steve

    Its hard to have empathy when they got what they asked for. I feel bad for all the families who drove to Yosemite and now cant hike the Mist Trail. As goes the world, a few ruin it for all.

    July 20, 2011 at 11:23 am | Report abuse |
  2. lazurite

    The stupidity of people never ceases to amaze me.

    July 20, 2011 at 11:24 am | Report abuse |
  3. Joey Isotta-Fraschini

    I wouldn't need to know the language of the sign.
    I'd see:
    Water near a known waterfall,
    A fence,
    And a sign.
    I'd know what the sign said in any language.

    July 20, 2011 at 11:27 am | Report abuse |
  4. zach

    let's blame the gays I'm sure they had something to do with it.

    July 20, 2011 at 11:29 am | Report abuse |
    • Rachel M

      Bush also.

      July 20, 2011 at 1:12 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Kelly kennedy

    The pros know how to make money and they are not sharing.

    But we know too and WE ARE SHARING.

    Google the term "SIMPLE STOCK CASH" and click the very first site. Go right to the penny' stock page to see what the rich do not want you to know.

    This will take you to another level of money making.

    July 20, 2011 at 11:34 am | Report abuse |
    • Rachel M

      So, I could make a waterfall of cash?

      July 20, 2011 at 1:13 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Sam

    The currents are a lot stronger up by vernal than they appear. I witnessed somethings similar a few year back. One guy (strong swimmer) jumped in, made it to the other end and swam back. Two kids jumped watching him jumped in. One made it to the other end, the other panicked, a third friend dove in and started panicking immediately and was saved by the strong swimmer. The kids that panicked half way thru floated towards the fall for atleast a minute and was saved by a few people on a rock close to the edge of the fall. DO NOT IGNORE THE SIGN FOLKS!!

    July 20, 2011 at 11:34 am | Report abuse |
    • Adam

      Yep....there is a reason why they r there...to keep us safe.

      July 20, 2011 at 12:18 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Tam

    Sometimes being stupid has hefty consequences, especially when people blatantly ignore posted signs and cross the fence anyway into a dangerous area.

    July 20, 2011 at 11:35 am | Report abuse |
    • Frank

      I agree. Darwin does his job in this situation.

      July 20, 2011 at 11:57 am | Report abuse |
    • eldono

      We can only hope they did not have children and pass on the Stupid gene to their offspring.

      July 20, 2011 at 12:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • sumday

      @ frank dawin said the strong survive he said nothing about the smart.

      July 20, 2011 at 12:44 pm | Report abuse |
  8. noteabags

    I don't think ignorant people travel much. They can't bring their guns on a plane.

    July 20, 2011 at 11:39 am | Report abuse |
    • Eric P

      well put...because it's probably true.

      July 20, 2011 at 12:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • sumday

      ignorant people are the ones that think guns aren't needed. I have 2 degree's and own guns. How many degree's do you have to be calling other's ignorant?

      July 20, 2011 at 12:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • olddorothy

      "How many degree's do you have to be calling other's ignorant?" Obviously neither of your degrees is in English.

      July 20, 2011 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rachel M

      I have a BA in "appropriate use of apostrophes".

      July 20, 2011 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • turtlebay

      Awesome! Your next degree can be in "periods always go inside quotes."

      July 21, 2011 at 11:01 am | Report abuse |
    • Ugh

      not always...

      July 21, 2011 at 12:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • wuzzup

      Vicious but witty...I like that quality in a person.

      July 21, 2011 at 10:49 am | Report abuse |
    • John McClane

      Sumday, how many degrees do you need to know that there is no apostrophe in the word "degrees"?

      Apparently you need three.

      July 20, 2011 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • lilly

      Thank you!!!

      July 21, 2011 at 7:57 am | Report abuse |
    • Nikki

      Two degrees, and yet you still placed an apostrophe in a plural word. Twice.

      July 20, 2011 at 6:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Apostrophes R Us

      Is that hilarious, or what? Of course, the degrees could be from CUNY, in which case this person gets a break.

      July 21, 2011 at 9:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dick

      Having two degrees and bragging about it simply means you have a huge ego. You could still be a moron for all we know.

      July 20, 2011 at 8:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Diane Carr

      THANK YOU!!!! Somebody with sense.

      July 22, 2011 at 10:06 am | Report abuse |
    • Fly Guy in SJ

      Uh, the ignorant are those who not only don't own guns but think their betters shouldn't, either.

      July 20, 2011 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bananas

      you can bring guns on a plane, FYI. They just have to be checked on, and tagged appropriately.

      July 21, 2011 at 12:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • ralphwiggum

      you sure can, genius. i do it frequently.

      July 21, 2011 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Geoff Hamilton

    Sounds like an "Into the Wild" moment if you ask me. Swift water is never anything to play with.

    July 20, 2011 at 11:40 am | Report abuse |
    • iamthefredman

      Does NO ONE but me watch Bear Grylls ?? Man vs. Wild

      July 20, 2011 at 12:48 pm | Report abuse |
  10. JimmyFlim

    here's a video showing what the falls look like right now with the water levels so high...


    July 20, 2011 at 11:41 am | Report abuse |
    • Auntie Warhol

      Nice video. I've been to Yosemite many times, and am always amazed at the stupid chances people take. Be smart, be safe.

      July 20, 2011 at 12:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • bilbo

      That's a lot of bath water.

      July 20, 2011 at 12:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • PCollen

      How irresponsible of Yosemite to even allow people to venture that close to moving water. People can be intoxicated by the thrill of being that close..I know how I felt at Niagra Falls, and am glad they have put up rails to make you think twice before going forward, although it is difficult to protect someone from their own stupidity.

      July 20, 2011 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • phasby

      great video, thanks for posting that. i can see why it's such a popular spot.

      July 20, 2011 at 12:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • home4rent@msn.com

      Beautiful video. What camera did you use. Thanks for sharing.

      July 20, 2011 at 12:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • JimmyFlim

      disclosure: it's not my video. found it on youtube. you probably already assumed that, but just in case.

      PCollen, i doubt the runoff is normally this swift and this close to the guardrail. and even if you move the rail back further, it doesn't stop people from jumping over or getting into trouble further upstream, which is where i assume these 3 folks got themselves in trouble. an MSN article states that two of them may have been hanging onto a rock or 'island' before being swept off. so i think they fell in a little further upstream than what you're seeing in the video. point is, you can't put a fence up for miles along the running water. it's not feasible or reasonable.

      July 20, 2011 at 12:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • JimmyFlim

      home4rent, if it was actually me shooting the video, i would have been using a nikon d90 with a 70-300mm zoom 😉

      maybe next summer

      July 20, 2011 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kim

      Awesome video, thanks for sharing. I'm a newbie to Yosemite, but the most important thing that park teaches you is "Respect Nature"!

      July 20, 2011 at 12:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • momomiester

      Just looking at that photo lites up every sense of my common sense not to get near that. How can you get near that? I wonder if alcohol was involved or these people just totally not exposed to nature. Sad but sheeze.

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

      PCollen...how irresponsible of Yosemite? Please do not try to blame this on anyone else. Who cares if people are stupid, or drunk, or high. People should be responsible for their actions. They made the decision. If they are drunk or high, then they made the decision to allow their judgement to be clouded. That doesn't excuse them from responsibility. It's time for people to be held accountable and responsible for their actions. Accidents included. This blaming someone else needs to stop. We are adults. People need to start acting like it.

      July 20, 2011 at 12:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • iamthefredman

      Great video. One more reason to stay home and save my time and money. Saw it once, thanks. Don't need to waste my time going there now.

      July 20, 2011 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • JimmyFlim

      here's what vernal falls looks like when there's little runoff... amazing difference. (around the 1 minute mark)


      July 20, 2011 at 2:05 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Yes It Can

    I was there a couple of weeks ago and a mother was letting her toddler run wild by the edge of Nevada Falls. I just wanted to walk over to her and shake some sense into her. Too many people think it will never happen to them...News flash: YES IT CAN!

    July 20, 2011 at 12:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • James M

      Once at the 'chaps' arch in Utah I saw a bunch of young kids running around (running!). This is not a place where you want to run around! Even if you don't die in some dramatic fall into the canyon, there are unlimited ways to get hurt or killed around there.

      July 20, 2011 at 7:31 pm | Report abuse |
  12. passing the time @ work

    how very sad...a great vacation that turns into a tragedy. my prayers are with all the family. hope they recover them so the family has closure. and a hug to the man that had to see the fear in the mans eyes when he went over, God Bless them all

    July 20, 2011 at 12:06 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Spaceman

    bungee jump goes wrong

    July 20, 2011 at 12:10 pm | Report abuse |
  14. pauletteb

    Appears that you're the one off-topic. Using someone else's tragedy as a political soapbox is beyond reprehensible.

    July 20, 2011 at 12:12 pm | Report abuse |
  15. suesark

    I wasn't even referring to the lack of grammar/spelling skills, etc. That's a completely different topic worthy of discussion. It was the lack of compassion, the name-calling, the vitriolic hatred we seem to have for one another.

    July 20, 2011 at 12:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • cointoss

      Thank you. I noticed only one other compassionate post here. People are dead and people saw them fall to their deaths. I feel for their families and anyone who witnessed this tragedy. To those who would turn this into a joke about the intelligence of the vitims- take a look at yourselves if you want to know what real stupidity is.

      July 20, 2011 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
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