Rangers find Yosemite falls victim's body

YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, Calif. (AP) - August 6, 2011

Hormiz David, of Modesto, Calif., and two other members of his church group crossed the safety barricade at the top of Vernal Fall to pose for photos and were swept in on July 20.

Friends said the victims likely did not understand that the swift-moving Merced River could be so treacherous. They watched in horror as David, Ramina Badal and Ninos Yacoub were pulled over the 317-foot cliff.

Recovery teams spotted David's body on Friday afternoon, pinned against a boulder about 240 feet below the base of the waterfall, Yosemite National Park spokeswoman Kari Cobb said.

Rangers closed the trail to Vernal Fall as searchers lowered down from horizontal ropes crossing the rushing river to recover the body.

"They were actually able to just spot the body because the water was low enough," Cobb said. "Hopefully as the water continues to goes down, we can find signs as to the others' location."

Rangers will scan the shoreline and hike the Mist Trail daily, and may intermittently close the trail until recovery operations are complete.

Park officials believe the other bodies are likely trapped under rocks and obscured as record snowmelt churns the Merced River.

The tourists apparently didn't realize the upstream pool in which they were wading for a photo had a strong current running underneath.

Relatives have been traveling frequently to the park hoping to hear news about the whereabouts of the victims, who 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.

David, 22, was studying music production at Modesto Junior College. Yacoub, 27, of Turlock, was studying chemistry at California State University, Stanislaus, and Badal, 21, of Manteca, attended the University of San Francisco and had hoped to become a nurse, friends said.

Copyright © 2023 WPVI-TV. All Rights Reserved.