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Search continues for 3 presumed dead in Yosemite

POSTED July 22, 2011 8:43 p.m.

The efforts to locate three Yosemite National Park visitors who were swept over Vernal Fall continues with no new developments reported by park officials.

Ninos Yacoub, 27, of Turlock; Ramina Badal, 21, of Manteca; and Hormiz “Nenos” David, 22, of Modesto were plunged over the 317-foor waterfall Tuesday afternoon and are presumed dead.

“We still haven’t found the bodies and are continuing the search efforts,” said park spokesperson Kari Cobb.

The trio was part of a church group visiting the park. According to park officials, the three climbed over a metal guardrail and waded into the water. They stopped about 25 feet from the precipice to take a photo. Initial reports stated Badal slipped and David tried to grab on to her, but also lost his footing. However, Metra Azar-Salem, who was at the park and a witness to the tragedy, told the Manteca Bulletin that it was David who slipped and Badal grabbed onto him.

Yacoub, who was out in the water to take the photo, tried to rescue both of his friends, but was swept over by the swift moving currents.

The Merced River, which feeds Vernal Fall, is seeing the effects of an unusually large winter snowpack and a cooler than normal spring and beginning of summer. Now that temperatures have started to rise, the snow is melting and that is creating in higher water levels that are colder and swifter than normal.

The treacherous waters are also hampering the recovery efforts because divers can’t enter the water.

“The water is very, very rough and way too dangerous to put the divers into it,” Cobb said.

For now the search is contained to the shoreline and corridor around the river, Cobb said.

Park officials said the area is marked with a warning sign about the dangerous currents, along with the guardrail. No additional protective measures or signs are planned for the area.

Yacoub was a student at California State University, Stanislaus studying chemistry. David was studying music at Modesto Junior College. Badal was pursuing a nursing degree at the University of San Francisco.

Though park officials believe the three to be dead, the families are holding out hope of a rescue. Badal’s family created a Facebook page and released a statement expressing their hopes for the trio’s return.

“We have faith in God that He will protect Ramina Badal, Ninos Yacoub and Nenos David as well as their families during this time,” the statement read. “Please pray with us and focus on these two verses: Matthew 18:20 - "For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” Mark 10:27 - "With God, all things are possible."

To contact Sabra Stafford, e-mail sstafford@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2002.

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