Video: Hope dims for hikers swept over waterfall

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    >>> hope is all but lost today at finding three hikers alive who were swept over a water fall at california's yosemite national park . nbc's george lewis is there. george, good morning to you.

    >>> good morning, matt. it was a traumatic experience for family members and friends watching the three victims slip into the waterfall and down to the rapids below.

    >> reporter: park officials say it was a tragic chain reaction. a dozen or so people had entered the river above vernal familiars posing for pictures. denise garcia watched it unfold.

    >> they started jumping from rock to rock. when the guide jumped from one rock to the other rock, he slipped. he slipped on one side going down. then the girl, he started slipping. so the guy that was taking the pictures put the camera down and went after them and they all three went over the water fall .

    >> to go over the precipice of vernal fall is not survivable. and so they are presumed dead at this time. we have not recovered their bodies.

    >> and it's unlikely the bodies will be recovered for sometime as the rushing water fed by heavy snow runoff is simply too dangerous for search and rescue divers. the victims have been identified as 22-year-old david, 21-year-old ramina nadal, and 27-year-old yaku. in the central california town wednesday night, a prayer service honoring the young victims. two of ninos yakub's cousins remember him fondly.

    >> he didn't deserve it. the family didn't deserve it. his parents -- nobody -- had a love for him that's so stock too. it's somebody that we need him on this earth.

    >> he holds our family together. he's our rock, our angel. he's our angel.

    >> 1500 people a day make the hike above vernal fall . the area is well posted with warnings.

    >> this area is enclosed. there are signs posted saying, hey, it's dangerous, the water is swift. don't go over here. there's no ranger up there telling people they're not allowed to go over to that area.

    >> so far this year, six people have died in drowning accidents in yosemite.

    >> park rangers are telling us it could be september before the waters have receded enough so that the bodies can be found. matt?

    >> george lewis in california this morning. george, thank you very much.

    >>> coming up, a 6-year-old girl staff and news service reports
updated 7/21/2011 8:16:29 AM ET 2011-07-21T12:16:29

Relatives and friends of three people missing after they were swept over a giant waterfall at Yosemite National Park were praying that they would somehow be found alive, The Modesto Bee newspaper reported.

Family friend Romina Kiryakous, among a group of people who attended a church service in Ceres, said the three people's families were grief-stricken but hopeful, the paper said.

"They're not coping well," she told the Bee. "This is out of their control. There is nothing we can do now."

The paper said many at the service cried, while others appeared to be in shock.

The victims, all California residents, have been identified as Hormiz David, 22, of Modesto; Ramina Badal, 21, of Manteca; and Ninos Yacoub, 27, of Turlock.

The park service said Wednesday that the trio, who climbed over a guardrail, fell into the raging Merced River and plunged over 317-foot Vernal Fall, were presumed dead.

Remaining positive
However, at the Wednesday night service, people were trying to remain positive, the Bee reported.

"She was a nursing student," Tanya Badal said of her sister Ramina, but then corrected herself to say "She is a nursing student."

"With God all things are possible," she added, quoting a passage from the Bible.

Video: Three hikers swept by waterfall (on this page)

Park spokesman Scott Gediman told the Bee that one of the three people had "slipped, and there was a chain reaction as the other two tried to save the person who slipped," the Bee reported.

The paper said Ramina was attending the University of San Francisco, and Ninos Yacoub was a chemistry student at California State University, Stanislaus. David was reported to be studying music at Modesto Junior College.

Image: Hikers reach the vista point at Vernal Fall in Yosemite National Park
Eric Paul Zamora  /  AP
Hikers reach the vista point at Vernal Fall after hiking the Mist Trail Wednesday, July 20, 2011, a day after three visitors reportedly slipped into the Merced River above the waterfall. The three young tourists are presumed dead.

This is not the first time someone has fallen in the area. Ten people have died in and around the waterfall over the past decade.

In July 2005, a 24-year-old man fell down Vernal Fall to his death after losing his balance.

The snow-melt swollen rivers and lakes have claimed six lives in Yosemite National Park this year, including Tuesday's incident, the park service said. Two hikers drowned in the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir on June 29, 2011, and a hiker slipped and fell into the Merced River on the Mist Trail on May 13, 2011.

Reuters contributed to this report.


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