Witness Recounts Terrifying Tale of Yosemite Tragedy

Three hikers were swept into river one by one before going over falls
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 21, 2011 7:32 AM CDT
Yosemite Tragedy: Witness Recounts Terrifying Tale of Three Hikers Swept Over Vernal Fall
Hikers reach the vista point at Vernal Fall after hiking the Mist Trail July 20, 2011, a day after three visitors slipped into the Merced River above Vernal Fall in Yosemite National Park, Calf.   (AP Photo/The Fresno Bee, Eric Paul Zamora)

Witnesses are starting to paint a picture of exactly what happened at Yosemite's Vernal Fall Tuesday when three people, now presumed dead, were swept over. One hiker first saw a man who had crossed the barricade leaning over the waterfall holding a screaming young girl. "I'm yelling at him, 'You SOB, get over here!'" the hiker tells the Los Angeles Times. Those two came back safely, but three others had already crossed over, "taking pictures and being stupid," he says. A park ranger says the three had earlier been seen swimming 25 feet upstream, though signs warn against that practice.

The hiker saw a young woman slip first, then get carried toward the precipice. Then a man fell in, and the hiker started rushing to the rescue before being stopped by his companion. By then, another man had fallen in. "He looks back, just as he's being swept over the edge. I knew then they were not going to make it. They're going over the waterfall," the hiker says. A Yosemite spokesperson says the three were all members of a church group. The second victim was trying to rescue the first, he says, and the third was trying to rescue the other two. (Read more Yosemite National Park stories.)

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