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. DNADEB

    These are the same people that walk up to bears or bison to have pictures taken with them.

    July 20, 2011 at 12:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • pierce

      Or wander into ghetto areas (anywhere) wanting to do good.

      July 20, 2011 at 12:49 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Katy

    I suggest reading Off the Wall: Death in Yosemite. These 3 are not the first, and certainly won't be the last, to suffer the fatal consequences of ignoring both posted warning signs and common sense,

    July 20, 2011 at 12:19 pm | Report abuse |
  3. mizh

    Pretty sad, but thinning the herd, I guess....

    July 20, 2011 at 12:24 pm | Report abuse |
  4. chris

    Yosemite is a bit like Disneyland there are signs telling you to keep your hands and feet inside the ride at all times. I wonder how long they would have lived in an actual backcountry scenario one without signs fences and paved trails.

    July 20, 2011 at 12:24 pm | Report abuse |
  5. STaylor

    Visited this waterfall in Yosemite Park as a child. If memory serves me correctly, I remember that there signs in SEVERAL languages saying to not get close to the water. I remember looking at the water and being haunted by the sign and the thought of even accidentally getting close to the water.

    July 20, 2011 at 12:28 pm | Report abuse |
  6. TJ

    Don't mess with Mother Nature. You will always lose!

    July 20, 2011 at 12:28 pm | Report abuse |
  7. david ireland

    The Falls and Mist trail are dangerous–it's part of the beauty and maybe the lure. Not only is the water swift and cold, but along the edge of the water, especially on the Silver Apron (just above the Falls and before the Emerald Pool) the rocks are very slick and I believe a type of moss covers the rocks right at the water's edge–very easy to slip! Like with anything that dangerous, look but don't touch.

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

    I just hiked the mist trail two weeks ago; the water volume form the record snow pack is still incredibly strong for late July. I sat on the large rock formation at the top of Vernal falls near the guard railing and ate lunch like most people do who are continue on up to the top of Nevada Falls. At the top of Vernal Fall the guard railing is only a few feet from the raging water. Why they felt the need to get even closer is beyond me, particularly given the warning signs. Also the rock surface between the railing and water is sandy and sloped towards the water. Why climb the rail?

    July 20, 2011 at 12:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • James M

      I get the distinct impression that the victims were not at the fall's edge. They were somewhere upstream where the waters can seem really calm until a current happens to grab you. Water can be deceptive. I've gotten into sketchy situations in rapids, gotten into riptides, I've even gotten into trouble on a still lake. I've done all kinds of things on water that could easily have gotten me killed. One that I'm especially proud of, even though I know how easily I could have died: Kayaking alone from Nanaimo BC to the Toba Inlet. Every once in a while I'll be laying in my bed thinking about how many ways I could have died on that trip, but I wouldn't trade the experience for the world.

      July 20, 2011 at 7:35 pm | Report abuse |
  9. kyle

    I was recently at the grand canyon and multiple people stand right on the edge of 2000 foot cliffs. People really dont take nature seriously sometimes.

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

      . . . or gravity.

      July 20, 2011 at 1:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • ELH

      Some 53 folks have fallen to their deaths, not a few because they were trying to pose for a picture and just backed off into oblivion.

      July 20, 2011 at 2:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • James M

      Last time I was at the South Rim, I lost count of the unbelievably dangerous and oblivious things people were doing. One guy was very obviously drunk and was staggering down the Bright Angel trailhead. I got in his face, and he did not appreciate it one bit. I told him in no uncertain terms, 'you are clearly drunk, and even if you manage to not stagger right off the edge of the canyon, you are already deep enough on the trail that it's going to be a major effort for you to get back to the top'. A couple of larger and even more assertive men took over. Nowadays I go to secluded spots in the woods of the North Rim. I have no interest in going anywhere tourists flock to. There's plenty of relatively mundane natural wonder to be enjoyed.

      July 20, 2011 at 7:39 pm | Report abuse |
  10. DJM

    When I hiked the Mist trail in late May, a hiker had fallen into the water and been swept over Vernal Falls as well. I and my party were on our way down from the top of Nevada Falls when the Park Rangers closed the trail to recover his body. When we walked past the rescue crews we could see the mans body wedged between two rocks. It took them hours to get his body and many hikers saw his corpse as they hiked down. We were told by a ranger that day they often do not recover the bodies when this happens during the high water volume season in late spring and early summer.

    July 20, 2011 at 12:55 pm | Report abuse |
  11. susan cuenin

    I was in Yosemite at the bottom of those falls Sunday and the power of the water is amazing and underestimated. The beauty is beyond spectacular but some people just don't understand that those safety rails are there for a reason! Stay away from the water. Vernal Falls flow over a slab of slippery granite! Condolences to the families of all those involved.

    July 20, 2011 at 12:56 pm | Report abuse |
  12. mike

    Just as long as careless people dont end up causing ugly safety barriers to be put up every where to protect stupid people, Let Darwinism come through and cut people out of the gene pool.

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

      Except if that person happens to be a child. What a cretin you are!

      July 20, 2011 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sean

      I agree Mike. Let us stop rounding off the edges of life, it is making us week as a nation...

      July 20, 2011 at 1:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Not as shortsighted

      "Better to be thought a fool than open one's mouth and remove all doubt." Think things through before you say them. You're saying that carelessness is what's causing accidents, and carelessness is what should be taken out of the gene pool. If that were the only legitimate explanation, that would almost sound reasonable. There are a number of other factors that are more plausible. Some of the main ones are the desires to explore, conquer and adventure. These are traits that drive progress forward, something that your expressed viewpoint should favor.
      Honestly, read your comment after you type it before just "carelessly" pressing post and submitting garbage. See what I did there?

      July 20, 2011 at 2:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • lad

      well... the oxy moron in your quote is, the fact you support the darwin idea, would mean maybe you should wander off the edge???,
      the less darwin, the more evolution....

      let me ask you this, how come gorilla's aren't still converting into humans?, hehehehehe, I don't see any evolution ;-), show me a half human half monkey and i'll believe it.

      July 20, 2011 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Shane

      Wow. Another person that simply doesn't understand evolution that needs to share their ignorance with the rest of the world. Good job.

      July 20, 2011 at 4:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bob

      Mike, are you aware of the fact that Darwin claimed Jesus Christ, as his Lord and Savior, on his death bed. He confessed his sins, asked for Jesus to forgive him, and now is in Heaven with all the rest of the saints. Just a side bar I thought you might find interesting.

      July 20, 2011 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Josh

      Actually Darwin did NOT claim Jesus as anything at all on his death bed. It was a rumor created by people who wanted it to be true and has been discounted by biographers and family members alike, all who were there when he died, though the person who made the claim initially that he had a deathbed conversion was not there. It's these stories, and stories about mormons baptizing long dead holocaust jews and the like, that make americans seem like a bunch of religious zealots. Your story about Darin is a lie. But then, I'm sure you have plenty of practice believing lies just because they're written somewhere.

      July 20, 2011 at 5:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Volodymyr

      Here is what his (Darwin's) daughter had to say:

      I was present at his deathbed, Lady Hope was not present during his last illness, or any illness. I believe he never even saw her, but in any case she had no influence over him in any department of thought or belief. He never recanted any of his scientific views, either then or earlier. We think the story of his conversion was fabricated in the U.S.A. ... ...The whole story has no foundation what-so-ever."

      July 20, 2011 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Volodymyr

      Here is what darwin himself had to say about christianity:

      By further reflecting that the clearest evidence would be requisite to make any sane man believe in the miracles by which Christianity is supported, — and that the more we know of the fixed laws of nature the more incredible do miracles become, — that the men at that time were ignorant and credulous to a degree almost incomprehensible by us, — that the Gospels cannot be proven to have been written simultaneously with the events, — that they differ in many important details, far too important, as it seemed to me to be admitted as the usual inaccuracies of eye witnesses; — by such reflections as these, which I give not as having the least novelty or value, but as they influenced me, I gradually came to disbelieve in Christianity as a divine revelation. The fact that many fake religions have spread over large portions of the earth like wildfire had some weight with me. But I was very unwilling to give up my belief; I feel sure of this, for I can remember often and often inventing day-dreams of old letters between distinguished Romans, and manuscripts being discovered at Pompeii or elsewhere, which confirmed in the most striking manner all that was written in the Gospels. But I found it more and more difficult, with free scope given to my imagination, to invent evidence which would suffice to convince me. Thus disbelief crept over me at a very slow rate, but was at last complete. The rate was so slow that I felt no distress, and have never since doubted even for a single second that my conclusion was correct.

      I am utterly ashemed to have ever considered such a man to be capable of this sort of foolishness (renouncing science and accepting religion on his deathbed that is).

      http://forums.joeuser.com/362990

      July 20, 2011 at 5:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • James M

      Before you cite or criticize Darwin, you should read his work. What Darwin actually wrote may be different from what you have been told he wrote.

      July 20, 2011 at 7:41 pm | Report abuse |
  13. pod

    sad for sure – WHY though on earth would someone get into swift moving water above some falls? As for why a park service would let people get close – why not actually – let them get closer. People should be able to use the common sense that comes in the form of self preservation. If that force isn't strong with someone, it's basic that they're going to leave this planet sooner than others. I like how in Europe in ski areas for example, there are no boundaries, just warnings. Over here, there's just too much "off limits" – I'm pretty sure a balance would eventually be reached where people would learn to just handle that kind of freedom.

    July 20, 2011 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • James M

      Upstream from the rapids the water often is seductively calm. This causes people to get into trouble in innumerable rivers. Local conditions can change in the blink of an eye, and currents you can't detect from the surface can drag you with massive force. These are currents that can rip boats apart, or bend canoes into flat ribbons.

      July 20, 2011 at 7:44 pm | Report abuse |
  14. mervyn

    It's because of these kind of people that the parks are festooned with ugly warning signs everywhere telling people what they should have the common sense to know anyway.

    July 20, 2011 at 1:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bob

      Unfortunately, commons sense is among those things which are so uncommon!

      July 20, 2011 at 4:57 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Mike

    I read the news report at one of the local TV stations and learned that a group of 10 family and friends climbed over the safety railings. One person fell in the water, another went to help and fell in, then a third fell in. I'm not callous, but it seems some careless people never heed warning signs and take needless risks. This is a tragedy and I feel for the families, but the people who climbed over the railings caused their own loss. On past visits to Yosemite, I have seen several tourists ignore warning signs at the falls. I cringe whenever I see people doing this; they think they know better than everyone else.

    July 20, 2011 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • John McClane

      I celebrate life whenever I see incidents like this happen. That is three fewer idiots in the world.

      July 20, 2011 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Oh you were there?

      It's really amazing how you're so able to condemn when you have no idea what actually happened leading up to the tragedy. Sounds like the kind of condescending statement that someone would make who thinks he "knows better than everyone else." See what I did there?

      July 20, 2011 at 2:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • lad

      mike....
      if you risk your life to save another, your a hero...
      i'm guessing you don't believe in our wonderful military?,

      to what extent to you believe in this 'ridding of bad genes theory', i'm a professional golfer... does that mean you should be 'rid of', becuase your an absolute hacker?

      July 20, 2011 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse |
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