Rangers find 3rd body in Yosemite's Merced River
FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — Officials on Monday identified a body found in the Merced River as one of three young people swept over a waterfall last summer in Yosemite National Park.
Meanwhile, searchers found another body that could be the last missing hiker from the July accident that traumatized dozens of people using one of the park's most popular trails.
The body of Ninos Yacoub, 27, was found on Nov. 29, trapped under house-sized boulders that became visible after the river receded. Park officials said the Mariposa County coroner had identified Yacoub's body.
On Saturday, rangers searching the same area located another body that family members believe is that of 21-year-old Ramina Badal.
Rangers had stepped up search efforts after the Merced River, which was flowing at near record levels at the time of the accident, slowed to its lowest level all year. After finding Yacoub's body, rangers walked in the water along an otherwise inaccessible stretch of the river about a half-mile below the falls to look for Badal.
"Even with these low water levels it's still a very dangerous area with treacherous conditions," park spokesman Scott Gediman said.
Badal, Yacoub and 22-year-old Hormiz David were swept over the 317-foot Vernal Fall after stepping into the river to pose for a photograph. David's body was located a month later pinned against a boulder 240 feet downstream from the waterfall.
They were part of a group of friends from a close-knit community of Central Valley Christians from the Middle East who had tackled the strenuous and popular Mist Trail on a hot day then stopped at the top of the waterfall to cool off.
The Merced River flowed deceptively swiftly that day, and the solid granite riverbed is as slick as glass. Witnesses said Badal slipped and both of the men fell after her attempting a rescue.
Other hikers, including several children in the group, could only watch as the rushing water swept all three students over the edge.
"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," witness Jake Bibee said at the time.
The search for the bodies resumed when weather conditions turned favorable and the water flow had decreased.
A post on Badal's Facebook page said the family had been encouraged by "a finding" and were awaiting identification. Well-wishers said they were praying the bodies would be found before Christmas.
Badal's mother, Virginia Badal, said she was too upset Monday to talk about the discovery.