The search for three victims who fell over the 317 foot Vernal Fall in Yosemite National Park and into the Merced River has been scaled back due to the intense flow of water.
Ninos Yacoub, 27 year old male, of Turlock, Hormiz “Nenos” David, 22 year old male, of Modesto, and Ramina Badal, 21 year old female, of Manteca, were presumed dead after plunging over the 317 foot waterfall on Tuesday, July 19, 2011, at approximately 1:30pm.
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 group was trying to take a picture when Badal slipped, then David fell in trying to help her, and then Yacoub fell in trying to save David.
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.
Search and rescue operations began combing each side of the river looking for the victims and continued throughout the weekend.
“We did have search crews throughout the weekend as a scale down began on Sunday,” stated Kari Cobb, Yosemite Public Affairs Officer. “Instead of actively searching the river corridor as we were before, we have 1 to 6 search and rescue individuals, as well as Rangers, that will be walking the trail every day looking into the river corridor, but not actually going gown into the river to search for any clues as the water level decreases.”
Initial search efforts included search and rescue teams combing the banks of the river, down in the river corridor, and up to the base of the waterfall, as close as they could get which wasn’t very close because of the power of the water. Even the mist coming off water wouldn’t let people get close to it.
Cobb explained that the current condition puts water flow at 1,000 cubic feet per second.
“We will send in dog teams, as well as search teams, directly down to the river again once the river level is down to 500 csf. It’s safe for us to start diving when it’s at 60 csf,” stated Cobb. “So we’ve got quite a ways to wait for the river go down.”
Because of the cool weather and continued slow rate of snow melting, the estimated time that a full force search will take up again is relatively unknown.
“We can say it’s going to be a couple weeks, but it’s been really cool,” said Cobb. “And even in the high country it’s cool, so snow is melting at a very slow rate.”
Many people were planning to go to Yosemite Sunday morning to search for their loved ones but were urged not to go by the Badal family.
The Badal family posted on a tribute facebook page for Ramina Badal:
“We appreciate the offer of help but we will feel more comfortable knowing that no more people are being put in danger this weekend. Your energy is best spent attending the Holy Raza at church on Sunday. Remember, if God wants them to be found He will do so in his own timing. We would really love the continued prayers. Thank you all again, God bless. -Badal Family”
As of late Monday, no bodies have been recovered from the fast sweeping river.
For now, family and friends are asking for prayers.
The Badal family has announced that there will be prayer services every evening this week at Mar Zaia Church in Modesto at 6pm.