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The deaths at Vernal Fall, Yosemite

SFGate.com quotes Jake Bibee, who witnessed the deaths of three Central Valley residents who were swept over Yosemite’s Vernal Fall on Tuesday:

“When you come up here, if the sign says you are going to die if you go into the water, respect the signs,” Bibee said.

The three Yosemite visitors, Ramina Badal, 21, Ninos Yacoub, 27, and Hormiz David, 22, had gone over or around a guardrail upstream of Vernal Fall at the top of the Mist Trail, to stand in knee-deep water. After photographing each other and playing in the water, Badal slipped and all three were pulled over the 317-foot waterfall. The Merced River below the waterfall is strewn with boulders, and the bodies had not been recovered at the time the article was written.

There are warning signs that show a stick figure tumbling over the edge of a waterfall. A park pamphlet tells visitors “never to swim or wade upstream of a waterfall, even if the water appears shallow or calm.”

Yosemite National Park is 1,200 square miles in area and has 750 miles of trails. There are around four million visitors each year. In 2011, SIX people have died so far in the rivers and waterfalls of Yosemite. Snowmelt and runoff from the record snowpack have made the rivers especially dangerous this year.

“Yosemite and the national parks are inherently wild places,” said Yosemite spokesman Scott Gediman. “We do all we can do to educate visitors through the Web, our newsletters and public signs – but ultimately, people need to make their own decisions.”

(Note added August 06, 2011: The body of Hormiz David, 22, has been recovered.)

-Bill at

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