Last edited on 08/13/2011 at 06:09 PM (UTC3 Assyria)
Hikers reach the vista point at Vernal Fall after hiking the Mist Trail Wednesday, July 20, 2011, a day after three visitors reportedly slipped into the Merced River above Vernal Fall in Yosemite National Park, Calf. The three young tourists are presumed dead; rescuers continued searching for their bodies Wednesday. (AP Photo/The Fresno Bee, Eric Paul Zamora)
Yosemite deaths a reminder of rivers' risks by Gosia Wozniacka, Associated Press - Tracie Cone, Associated Press. July 20, 2011.
YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, Calif. (AP) — The deaths of three young tourists who were swept over a 317-foot waterfall this week in Yosemite National Park serve as a reminder of the deadly and alluring beauty of the raging rivers and streams across the West after a record winter snowfall.
As temperatures rise, the melting snow has engorged waterways, causing flooding and sometimes tragic consequences. Some states have seen an increase in water-related deaths that they blame on the surge in river flows.
Witnesses to the Yosemite tragedy described the traumatizing image of a young woman slipping on a rock above the raging Vernal Fall and two friends falling while trying to save her.
In an instant, a church photo opportunity turned horrific beyond description as the frigid Merced River, swollen by snowmelt, swept the trio over the edge Tuesday.
Tanya Badal, sister of the missing Ramina Badal, speaks before a vigil service at the Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East, St George Parish, Wednesday, July 20, 2011, in Ceres, Calif. Three people are presumed dead after being swept over a raging waterfall in Yosemite National Park on Tuesday. The three were believed to be in Yosemite as part of a Modesto, Calif., based youth church outing. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
"I can't talk about what happened there," Tanya Badal, sister of one of the victims, said before breaking into sobs Wednesday.
Across the West, rafters, kayakers, swimmers and even some drivers have lost their lives in recent weeks due to fast-moving water.
In Montana, at least 10 people have drowned so far this year and another man is missing and presumed drowned after trying to retrieve an oar that fell out of his raft Sunday. Only three people drowned in 2010, and Montana officials are warning that the difference is the volume of fast and cold water from the melting snowpack and spring rains.
At least 11 people have drowned in Utah waterways since April, many of them swept away in fast-flowing rivers swollen by melting snowpack. The deaths included a 15-year-old boy who drowned in a swollen river near Zion National Park in June while swimming with friends who were swept over a waterfall.
Five people have died after being swept into Colorado's raging rivers and creeks. One of them, a Kansas woman, drowned June 22 after rolling her vehicle into a river.
Swollen rivers in Wyoming have killed at least half a dozen people this summer, including four members of a Colorado family whose vehicle plunged into a washout Tuesday, and a 4-year-old boy who was one of five people in a canoe that capsized on the Green River.
In California, the Sierra Nevada mountain range saw twice its normal snowfall. With high temperatures creating a fast melt, some rivers are flowing with twice the force as usual for a time of year when many might have slowed to a lazy run.
Law enforcement agencies closed long stretches of rivers in the western Sierra Nevada foothills in June as swift water created a potentially deadly allure. More than a dozen people have died along the Kern River in the southern San Joaquin Valley.
Tuesday's deaths bring to six the number of people who have died in water accidents this year at Yosemite, where breathtaking waterfalls and rivers are at their most turbulent level in years.
The force of the falls in Yosemite is jaw-dropping. Yosemite Falls, the nation's tallest, is spewing enough water to fill a gasoline tanker truck every four seconds. The force of water at Bridalveil Falls across the valley kicks up a mist that clouds the meadow below.
In this undated photo provided by the Badal family on Thursday, July 21, 1011, Ramina Badal is seen. Badal is one of three people who are presumed dead after being swept over Vernal Falls in Yosemite National Park on Tuesday, July 19, 2011. The three were believed to be in Yosemite as part of a Modesto, Calif., based youth church outing. (AP Photo/The Badal family)
"Water is infinitely more powerful than anyone can imagine," said Moose Mutlow, coordinator of Yosemite's Swift Water Rescue program. Under standard procedure, signs in Yosemite campgrounds and at the bottom of the trail leading to Vernal Fall warn that water is moving swiftly.
In addition, a park newspaper given out at the gate warns about the water hazards. On a page devoted to public safety — including the effects of altitude sickness, river crossings and traffic safety — an article warns visitors to stay away from swiftly moving water. "Never swim or wade upstream from a waterfall, even if the water appears shallow and calm," the article reads.
Vernal Fall features a guard railing and a metal safety barricade marked with a warning and universal no-swimming icon. The victims in this week's tragedy had climbed over the barricade before they fell.
Park officials said Thursday they have no plans to add new warning signs or other protections following the deaths.
"We feel that the guard railing and the signage at Vernal Fall is adequate to convey the dangers of walking into the Merced River at the top of the waterfall," said park spokesman Scott Gediman.
"Ultimately, it's the visitor's responsibility to exercise judgment and caution when going to the edge of cliffs, whether or not guard rails and signs are in place."
Pastor Genard Lazar had led the group to the falls along the popular hiking trail with his 6-year-old daughter, young people from his church and members of his extended family, church members said. Lazar is youth coordinator of the Diocese of California of the Assyrian Church of the East.
"He can't stop crying," said Romina Kiryakous, a fellow parishioner at St. George's Church in the central California town of Ceres, who sat with the families over two days as they awaited word of the search at the park. "He keeps saying they are my flock and I can't help them. It was the saddest thing to see him crying like that."
Tony and Virginia Badal, parents of Ramina Badal, are escorted into a vigil service at the Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East, St George Parish, Wednesday, July 20, 2011, in Ceres, Calif. Ramina Badal, 21, is among the three people presumed dead after being swept over a raging waterfall in Yosemite National Park on Tuesday. The three were believed to be in Yosemite as part of a Modesto, Calif., based youth church outing. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Ramina Badal's parents are visibly sickened by grief, paralyzed by the reality of the terrifying manner of death of their daughter and her two friends. At a crowded prayer vigil Wednesday night, Tony and Virginia Badal supported each other as they walked sobbing into the church.
The three college students are presumed dead, and a search for their bodies continues, though park officials said they might remain hidden under boulders until fall when the water — now gushing at four times its average rate for this time of year — recedes.
The victims were identified as Ramina Badal, 21; Hormiz David, 22; and Ninos Yacoub, 27. They were all members of a close-knit community of Christians with roots in the Middle East.
Ramina Badal was studying nursing at the University of San Francisco, her sister said. Friends said Yacoub was studying chemistry at California State University-Stanislaus, and David studied music production at Modesto Community College.
While at Vernal Fall, Ramina Badal slipped, and one of the men fell in trying to grab her. The other, who had been taking photos, tried to grab them and slipped in too.
Jacob Bibee, a seasoned hiker who witnessed the tragedy, said he covered his companion's eyes as the trio went over and chaos erupted. Screams drowned the roar of the falls. Witnesses with cell signals called 911.
"That whole group was just hysterical. They were shrieking. And praying. Then six or seven minutes into it, everyone was silent. There were about 45 or 50 of us and everyone was just silent." ___
Associated Press writers Lynn DeBruin in Salt Lake City, Colleen Slevin in Denver, Mead Gruver in Cheyenne, Wyo., and Matt Volz in Helena, Mont., contributed to this report.
Last edited on 08/13/2011 at 06:10 PM (UTC3 Assyria)
Two men and a woman crossed this metal barricade above the 317-foot Vernal Fall on Tuesday, July 19, 2011 making their way over slick granite at the waters edge of the Merced River at the top of of the falls. The top of Vernal Fall is always treacherous, and is especially so this year because of the record snowmelt now under way. A metal barricade separates hikers from the river where it pools before crashing over the precipice. (AP Photo / Gosia Wozniacka)
Hikers on the Mist Trail to Vernal Fall in Yosemite are seen Wednesday July 20, 2011. Two men and a woman crossed a metal barricade above the 317-foot Vernal Fall on Tuesday, making their way over slick granite to a rock on the edge of the swift Merced River trying to pose for a picture. Instead they burned a horrifying image into the memories of everyone who saw. (AP Photo/GosiaWozniacka)
Yosemite officials plan no new signs after tragedy by Gosnia Wozniacka, Associated Press - Tracie Cone, Associated Press. July 22, 2011.
YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, Calif. (AP) — Yosemite National Park officials said Thursday they have no plans to add new warning signs or other protections to the area where three young people were swept over a 317-foot waterfall this week.
Witnesses say the three hikers ignored warnings and climbed guard railing at the top of Vernal Fall on Tuesday to wade into the Merced River, several dozen feet from the water's drop.
One woman slipped, and two men fell in while trying to save her. Yosemite spokesman Scott Gediman says the site's railing and single sign are adequate and it's the visitor's responsibility to exercise judgment and caution when near any cliff.
Authorities and park officials throughout the region have issued strong warnings about water dangers this summer as high temperatures melt the near-record Sierra Nevada snowpack.
Meanwhile, friends described the three hikers as church role models who normally did not take risks.
Members of St. George's Church in Ceres gathered for a prayer vigil Wednesday evening, grieving over the tragedy that occurred on a church group outing a day earlier.
The church pastor, Genard Lazar, was a part of the group of about a dozen hikers who ascended the steep Mist Trail to the top of Vernal Falls to pose for photographs.
Tanya Badal, the sister of victim Ramina Badal, saw her sister go over the falls. She declined to talk about what happened atop Vernal's precipice, but said that despite the passage of time she was still praying the three would be found alive.
"I still have hope," she said outside of the church. Bishop Mar Awa Royel said he has been praying with the family for a quick recovery of the bodies, still missing after two days of searching.
On Wednesday Badal's parents, Tony and Virginia, supported each other as they walked sobbing into the church. When Virginia's knees buckled, Tony caught her.
"This will be a chance for us to re-educate our young people about how valuable life is," said Charmain Morad-Daniel, a member of the Assyrian National Council of Stanislaus County, as mourners packed the church Friends said the victims likely did not understand that the swift-moving Merced River could be so treacherous.
Witnesses say the young tourists were trying to pose for a picture. Instead they burned a horrifying image into the memories of everyone who saw.
Badal, Hormiz David, 22, of Modesto, and Ninos Yacoub, 27, of Turlock were swept to their deaths.
A man believed to be David crossed a metal barricade with Badal above the falls to make their way over slick granite to a rock in the middle of the swift Merced River.
Badal slipped and David reached in for her and fell in. Yacoub had been trying to take their photo, friends said, and he slipped in when he tried to save them.
Other hikers, including several children in their group, could only watch as the rushing water swept all three students over the edge. "Everyone was screaming," witness Jake Bibee said. "People were praying."
A sign in English warns visitors not to cross the barricade or swim in the waters above the falls. Bibee said other hikers had shouted that it wasn't safe to go into the rushing river.
The victims were part of a close-knit community of Assyrian Christians with roots in the Middle East who have been settling in California's Central Valley during the past century.
They were members of the St. George Church in Ceres. The church is part of the Assyrian Church of the East.
"It's very shocking to our community," said the Rev. Auchana Kanoun, who leads the parish.
Ninos Piro said outside the Mar Zaia Cathedral in Modesto that he was friends with all three victims, whom he knew from church.
David was studying music production at Modesto Junior College, Yacoub was studying chemistry at California State University, Stanislaus, and Badal attended the University of San Francisco and had hoped to become a nurse, friends said.
"They were honest, righteous Christians trying to live their lives the right way," said Piro, 36, of Turlock. "They were trying to be a good influence on everyone around them. That's why you see everyone so torn up around here."
The top of Vernal Fall is always treacherous, and is especially so this year because of the record snowmelt now under way. A metal barricade separates hikers from the river where it pools before crashing over the precipice.
On Wednesday afternoon, hundreds of tourists climbed the 1.5-mile Mist Trail to the top of Vernal Fall after the path was reopened. Julie Ehrler of Modesto was on the trail with her mother-in-law but felt too uneasy to go all the way to the top of the falls. She called the loss of the three victims tragic.
"I can understand they wanted to get close to it because it's a beautiful site. But you have to be respectful toward nature."
Bibee said other members of the victims' group also had been on the wrong side of the barricade when he reached the top of the Mist Trail. One man, he said, was posing near the waterfall with a screaming young girl in his arms while a teenage girl snapped photographs.
"People became unglued on this guy," Bibee said. "They said, 'You know what man, get your ass back over here.'"
As that man walked back, Bibee said, the doomed couple made their way to the rock.
Bibee, a 28-year-old country western musician who has hiked the Mist Trail many times, said that before the victims were swept away he had spent a good part of his hike explaining to his companion how dangerous the wilderness can be.
"People come up here and they think it's Disneyland," he said.
Witnesses called 911 immediately after the accident. The search and rescue unit closed the Mist Trail on Tuesday afternoon while searching for the bodies. The trail, used by 1,500 people a day, was reopened Wednesday as rescuers searched the banks of the river below the falls.
The victims' bodies may not be found until the river's waters, swollen by massive winter snows, recede later in the year, park spokeswoman Kari Cobb said.
The tragedy brings to six the number of people killed in water accidents in Yosemite this year. 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 deaths occurred in an especially dangerous year for visitors of mountainous areas in the West that experienced record winter snowfall that swelled rivers and streams when it melted.
Four family members died in Wyoming earlier in the week when a road collapsed and sent their car into a raging creek. In Utah, a 15-year-old girl died after heavy rains caused a huge sinkhole to open on a highway, swallowing a vehicle and causing her father's SUV to careen off the road. ___
Associated Press writer Terence Chea contributed from San Francisco. Cone reported from Modesto.
Alvena Maryam Safar, cousin of Ramina Badal, made the collage for the victims, Nenos David, Ramina Badal, and Ninos Yacoub, of the Vernal Fall incident. - (Alvena Maryam Safar)
Family of missing Yosemite hikers launch petition drive by Patty Guerra, pguerra ( a t ) modbee.com. August 04, 2011 11:00:22 PM Bee staff writer Patty Guerra can be reached at 209-578-2343.
The families of three hikers missing and presumed dead in Yosemite National Park launched a petition drive, hoping to expand the search for their loved ones.
Ramina Badal, 21, of Manteca, Hormiz “Nenos” David, 22, of Modesto and Ninos Yacoub, 27, of Turlock fell into the Merced River and went over the 317-foot Vernal Falls while on a day trip to the park July 19.
Searchers closed the Mist Trail and brought dogs to the banks of the Merced River earlier this week, but still haven’t found any trace of the three.
Yosemite National Park spokeswoman Kari Cobb said the trail was closed from 8:30 a.m. to noon Monday for the search effort.
“They searched the riverbank and didn’t find any clues as to where they were,” she said Tuesday. “The bodies are still missing.”
Family members continue to seek answers from the National Park Service and visited Yosemite again on Monday. They provided clothing of their loved ones to help the dogs pick up their scents.
“We just keep hoping and praying,” said Nina Paulus, David’s cousin. “Every day goes by very, very slow. We’re just anxious to know.”
Wednesday night, supporters announced the petition drive on a Facebook page set up on behalf of Badal’s family.
“We believe the park may not be using all its resources or putting forth a solid effort to help recover the three victims,” the online petition reads in part. “Although we appreciate any efforts that have been done to date, it is not enough to yield the results we desperately seek.”
Suggested additional measures include helicopter searches, using sandbags to divert some of the water and bringing in more search dogs. Family members earlier said they had offered to pay whatever it costs to expand the search.
According to the site, organizers hope to get 10,000 signatures. As of this afternoon, the petition had more than 1,000 virtual signatures from as far away as the United Kingdom and Australia.
Family members had asked Genesis Behavior Center owner Ramina Kiryakous to have her firm do an assessment of the area around Vernal Falls, possibly to suggest some new safety measures to the park. The firm specializes in work with autistic children and also has done some analysis for companies looking to make their environments safer.
Kiryakous had planned to release the assessment last week, but said today that her analysts are collecting more data and putting off the report to maintain focus on the search.
Cobb said search and rescue workers will continue to look as conditions permit, “especially when the water goes even lower.” She said rangers caution people who want to come to the park and help them look.
“That section is dangerous for our highly trained search and rescue personnel,” she said. “We don’t need or want any more accidents to occur.”
Paulus said the families have strong Christian faith that is helping them get through their ordeal, but “I don’t know if we can wait any longer. It’s getting tougher minute by minute.”
In this photograph released Saturday, Aug. 6, 2011, by Yosemite National Park, members of a search and rescue crew prepare to recover the body of a hiker swept over Vernal Fall. The body was found Friday, park officials said.
In this photo released by Yosemite National Park on Saturday, Aug. 6, 2011, members of a search and recovery team participate in the recovery of the body of a hiker who was swept over Vernal Fall with two companions. The body was recovered Friday, park officials said, and the search for the two others continued.
Body of hiker swept over Vernal Fall recovered at Yosemite National Park Search continues for two others who presumably died by Patty Guerra - pguerra ( a t ) modbee.com, Saturday, Aug. 06, 2011.
YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK — A search and rescue crew has recovered the body of one of three missing hikers swept over Vernal Fall last month. And the popular Mist Trail is closed today as the search for his companions continues.
The National Park Service confirmed this morning that the body of Hormiz "Nenos" David, 22, of Modesto, was found about 240 feet from the base of the falls at about 1 p.m. Friday. Spokeswoman Kari Cobb said water flow slowed enough that searchers could see the body.
"They were able to put ladders over the boulders and then have rigging attached to get lowered down to the body," Cobb said. The recovery by experts in swift water work took about 4½ hours.
Ramina Badal, in this undated photo provided by the Badal family on Thursday, July 21, 1011.
Yosemite National Park ID’s last body of trio of hikers swept over river falls in July
Body of Ramina Badal, 21, pulled from river over the weekend by Philip Caulfield. New York Daily News. Thursday, December 8 2011.
Officials at Yosemite National Park identified the body of the last of three young hikers who were swept to their deaths over a massive waterfall at the park in July.
Park officials said Ramina Badal, a 21-year-old nursing student at San Francisco University, was identified on Tuesday using dental and other records.
Rangers pulled her drowned body from beneath a footbridge about half a mile downriver from the base of Vernal Falls on Saturday, the park said in a statement.
Badal and pals Ninos Yacoub, 27, and Hormiz David, 22, fell to their deaths on July 19 after they ignored guard rail warnings and hopped into the Merced River near the falls' edge to snap a photo.
Dozens of tourists at the scene watched in horror as Badal reportedly lost her footing on the slick riverbed and was swept toward the 317-foot drop. Her two friends fell after lunging to save her.
A witness at the time told The Associated Press, "What I will take away with me forever is the look on that grown man's face as he was floating down that river knowing he was going to die and nobody could help them."
Yacoub's body was recovered on Nov. 29. Park officials said it was trapped beneath two giant boulders, about 100 yards away from where they later spotted Badal.
David's body was found pinned against a boulder in August.
The trio was part of a close-knit group of Middle Eastern Christians from central California. They had spent the day hiking the Mist Trail, one of the park's signature hike that winds along Vernal and Nevada Falls.
Search crews had stepped up efforts to find the two remaining hikers in November because the river's levels had sunk to their lowest levels all year.
\ã-'sir-é-ä\ n (1998)
1: an ancient empire of Ashur
2: a democratic state in Bet-Nahren, Assyria (northern
Iraq, northwestern Iran, southeastern Turkey and eastern Syria.)
a democratic state that fosters the social and political rights to all of
its inhabitants irrespective of their religion, race, or gender
4: a democratic state that believes in the freedom of
religion, conscience, language, education and culture in faithfulness to the
principles of the United Nations Charter —
Ethnicity, Religion, Language
Israeli, Jewish, Hebrew
Assyrian, Christian, Aramaic
Saudi Arabian, Muslim, Arabic
\ã-'sir-é-an\ adj or n (1998)
1: descendants of the ancient empire of Ashur
2: the Assyrians, although representing but one single
nation as the direct heirs of the ancient Assyrian Empire, are now
doctrinally divided, inter sese, into five principle
ecclesiastically designated religious sects with their corresponding
hierarchies and distinct church governments, namely, Church of the
East, Chaldean, Maronite, Syriac Orthodox and Syriac Catholic.
These formal divisions had their origin in the 5th century of the
Christian Era. No one can coherently understand the Assyrians
as a whole until he can distinguish that which is religion or church
from that which is nation -- a matter which is particularly
difficult for the people from the western world to understand; for
in the East, by force of circumstances beyond their control,
religion has been made, from time immemorial, virtually into a
criterion of nationality.
the Assyrians have been referred to as Aramaean, Aramaye, Ashuraya,
Ashureen, Ashuri, Ashuroyo, Assyrio-Chaldean, Aturaya, Chaldean,
Chaldo, ChaldoAssyrian, ChaldoAssyrio, Jacobite, Kaldany, Kaldu,
Kasdu, Malabar, Maronite, Maronaya, Nestorian, Nestornaye, Oromoye,
Suraya, Syriac, Syrian, Syriani, Suryoye, Suryoyo and Telkeffee. —
1: a Semitic language which became the lingua franca of
the Middle East during the ancient Assyrian empire.
2: has been referred to as Neo-Aramaic, Neo-Syriac, Classical
Syriac, Syriac, Suryoyo, Swadaya and Turoyo.