Three presumed dead in Yosemite waterfall plunge

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 20, 2011 5:28 PM
Three presumed dead in Yosemite waterfall plunge

By Dan Whitcomb

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Three people who had been playing at the top of a 317-foot Yosemite National Park waterfall were presumed dead after plunging over the edge, a park spokesman said on Wednesday.

Ninos Yacoub, 27, Hormiz David, 22, and Ramina Badal, 21, were seen slipping over Vernal Falls on Tuesday afternoon by hikers who had warned them to stay out of the river above the precipice, park ranger Scott Gediman said.

"Basically one person lost his footing and he started to slide down, and the second person tried to rescue him and then the third," he said.

Search and rescue teams had not found the bodies as of Wednesday morning, Gediman said, but did not believe that Yacoub, David or Badal could have lived through the ordeal.

"It's a 317-foot vertical drop over rushing water. It's not something that somebody can survive, unfortunately, Gediman said. "It's a tragic situation."

One or more of the bodies could have become wedged in rocks or carried downstream in the Merced River, Gediman said.

He said the search itself was "extremely dangerous" and was being conducted largely on the shore and a footbridge at the base of the falls as crews try to spot the bodies or any clues, such as shoes or items of clothing.

Yacoub, David and Badal apparently ignored a guard rail and warning signs, as well as the pleas of other hikers, before wading into the cold, swift-moving river about 25 feet from the edge, Gediman said.

The three friends, who all live in central California, were on a day trip to Yosemite.

The falls are still running at strong, Spring-like levels because of this year's larger-than-normal snowpack.

Vernal Falls and it's accompanying Mist Trail, which climbs some 1,000 feet alongside the raging water, is one of Yosemite's most popular destinations.

There have been six water-related deaths in Yosemite this year, officials say, including two people who drowned at Hetch Hetchy Reservoir in June and a hiker who slipped into the Merced from the Mist Trail in May.

(Editing by Cynthia Johnston)