Family of Manteca woman swept over Vernal Fall releases statement

July 20, 2011 

UPDATE: The family of Manteca resident Ramina Badal, among the three people swept over Vernal Fall to their presumed deaths on Tuesday afternoon, released a statement this afternoon.

They also created a Facebook page in honor of Badal, 21, who along with Hormiz “Ninos” David, 22, of Modesto, and Ninos Yacoub, 27, of Turlock, fell into the Merced River and went over the edge of the 317-foot waterfall.

"We still have hope that they are alive although worldly reasons weigh against us. The three of them are together to glorify the power of our redeemer through the father, son and holy spirit. We must have hope for as it is said in Mark 10:27 with God all things are possible. Our family asks that everyone out there please pray for us all as well as the search and rescue team and do not worry, doubt or fear. God has a most perfect plan that will be revealed to us when He wills it. On behalf of our family, we will be putting together a public Facebook for Ramina Badal. It will be a place where we can keep in touch with everyone while maintaining our privacy. It will host photos that we would like to share as well as updated family status and thoughts. It will allow for friends and family to share their positive thoughts with us in our time of need. God bless.

- Badal Family”

Click here to see the Facebook page.


Yosemite National Park officials said today they have no plans to add new warning signs or other protections to the area where three young people were swept over a 317-foot waterfall this week.

Witnesses say the three hikers ignored warnings and climbed guard railing at the top of Vernal Fall on Tuesday to wade into the Merced River, several dozen feet from the water's drop.

One woman slipped, and two men fell in while trying to save her.

Yosemite spokesman Scott Gediman says the site's railing and single sign are adequate and it's the visitor's responsibility to exercise judgment and caution when near any cliff.

Authorities and park officials throughout the region have issued strong warnings about water dangers this summer as high temperatures melt the near-record Sierra Nevada snowpack.

Family and friends of three people swept over Vernal Fall at Yosemite National Park gathered Wednesday night to pray for a miracle.

“She was a nursing student,” Tanya Badal said of her sister, Ramina, 21. Then she corrected herself. “She IS a nursing student.”

She quoted the Bible passage that says “With God all things are possible.”

Family members of Badal, who lives in Manteca, Hormiz “Ninos” David, 22, of Modesto, and Ninos Yacoub, 27, of Turlock are holding onto hope the three will be found alive after they fell into the swift-running Merced River while on a day trip to the park.

The three were with a group of young people and families from Church of the East, St. George Parish in Ceres hiking along the Mist Trail Tuesday.

The Rev. Genard Lazar said the group got to Yosemite at about 10:30 a.m., and took about 90 minutes to get to the top of the waterfall. He and 12 members of the church youth group were all up there eating lunch and taking pictures when the accident occurred.

Witnesses said the three went into the water above Vernal Fall, about 25 feet from the edge, park spokeswoman Kari Cobb said. Witnesses said several people urged them to step back from the cold and fast-moving water above the 317-foot drop.

“Other visitors were pleading with them to come out of the water,” park spokesman Scott Gediman said. “One of them slipped, and there was a chain reaction as the other two tried to save the person who slipped.”

Several members of the church group saw the accident, Lazar said.

“We were all crying and praying and someone called 911,” he said.

After the accident, the remaining nine members of the group, one as young as 9 years old, went home. The priest stayed at Yosemite and was joined there Wednesday by about 40 family, friends and other churchmembers. But when they realized nothing else could be done, they left the park in tears and returned to the Ceres church for a vigil.

The Rev. Nenos Michael, who works primarily out of the San Francisco, said Ramina was a nursing student at 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.

Wednesday evening, family members and friends packed the church in Ceres for the service. Many of those arriving were crying; others had expressions of shock.

Virginia Badal, Ramina Badal’s mother, entered the church foyer sobbing, leaning heavily on her husband, Tony.

The Rev. Mar Awa Royel, bishop of the church, spent time with the families Wednesday and spoke before the service. He said they were suffering but relying on their Christian faith to get them through the ordeal, and he asked media in attendance to respect their privacy.

Family friend Romina Kiryakous was among those who headed to Yosemite on Wednesday. She said the families are grief-stricken but hopeful their loved ones somehow will be found alive. They also expressed frustration that rescuers called off searches Tuesday night and Wednesday.

“They’re not coping well,” she said. “This is out of their control. There is nothing we can do now.”

Cobb said the search effort along the edge of the Merced River will resume today. However, even if a body is located, the water is too high and too swift to send divers in to recover it, Cobb said.

Fed by a huge winter snowpack and a cool spring and summer, the river is also too fast for anyone in a helicopter or plane to see anything.

“An aerial search is not possible because the river is just raging with white water,” ranger and incident commander Jeff Webb said.

A search team has walked a three-quarters of a mile stretch along the river, ending at a location with boulders so large it is unlikely a body could pass through them, Cobb said. It could take weeks or even months before all three are located.

“It’s a sad story and something that is very tragic and we are hoping that other visitors will take something and learn form it and exercise caution when around situations like this,” she said.

There have been six water-related deaths in Yosemite National Park this year, including this incident. Two hikers drowned in the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir on June 29, and a hiker slipped and fell into the Merced River on the Mist Trail on May 13.

The Fresno Bee contributed to this report.

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