After three deaths, new safety measures encouraged at Yosemite

Modesto BeeJuly 27, 2011 

YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, Calif. – Relatives of three San Joaquin Valley hikers swept over Vernal Fall a week ago continue near-daily trips to the park, desperate for news of their children.

"We can't sleep at night," said Tony Badal, whose daughter went into the water along with two friends during a day trip to Yosemite. "Our loved ones are not home."

Ramina Badal, 21, of Manteca, Hormiz David, 22, of Modesto, and Ninos Yacoub, 27, of Turlock, had gone around a guardrail and disregarded warning signs and the pleas of bystanders to come back.

When one slipped, the others tried to help, and all were carried away by the rushing water, apparently falling to their deaths. Their bodies have not been recovered.

While the families plead with park authorities to do all they can in the search, they also are concerned for potential dangers facing future hikers. They asked Romina Kiryakous, founder of Genesis Behavior Center to have her firm conduct an assessment of the safety measures in place at Vernal Fall. Genesis Behavior Center has offices in Modesto and Fresno.

Though signs warn hikers to stay on the trails and a metal rail lines the top of the 317-foot waterfall, Kiryakous doesn't think that's enough.

"I'm not content with that skimpy little rail," Kiryakous said, pointing out two women who went on the other side of it to wash their hands Tuesday afternoon.

Kiryakous and her team have been collecting data over several visits to the fall; a certified behavior analyst will compile findings, set for release Friday.

National Park Service officials could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

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