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UPDATE: Three presumed dead after falling over Vernal Falls Tuesday

July 19, 2011

Three visitors are presumed dead after plunging over Vernal Fall in Yosemite National Park yesterday afternoon at approximately 1:30 p.m.

Hormiz David, a 22-year-old-male from Modesto, Ninos Yacoub, a 27-year-old-male from Turlock, and Ramina Badal, a 21-year-old-female from Modesto, came to the park for a day trip with a group of family and friends.

The group was witnessed entering the water above Vernal Fall, approximately 25 feet from the precipice. Witnesses reported to park officials that several people urged the group member to step back from the river, since it was flowing swiftly and extremely cold. The area is signed as a dangerous area, and the group had crossed a metal guardrail placed there to keep visitors away from the dangerous fast moving water.

The park is still seeing the effects of a huge winter snowpack and a cool spring and summer. The Merced River, which feeds the 317-foot high Vernal Fall, is still running at spring conditions with significant water levels resulting in a swift, dangerous current. The hike up the Mist Trail to Vernal Fall is one of the most popular hikes in the park, with upwards of 1,500 people per day ascending the trail to the top of Vernal Fall.

Visitors are urged to exercise extreme caution around all water in Yosemite National Park. Park rivers and streams have been running at higher than normal levels for this time of year, and will remain high for several weeks.

There have been six water-related deaths in Yosemite National Park this year, including this incident. Two hikers drowned in the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir on June 29, and a hiker slipped and fell into the Merced River on the Mist Trail on May 13.

The Mist Trail had been closed since the incident to facilitate Search and Rescue Operations. The trail has now reopened. Yosemite National Park Rangers will continue search efforts throughout the day. These efforts consist primarily of combing each side of the Merced River looking for the victims.

Over the years, there have been several cases of visitors going over Vernal Fall, as well as other waterfalls, such as Upper Yosemite Falls.

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