Search For Missing Yosemite Waterfall Victim Halted Temporarily


Three hikers were killed this summer when they were caught in the current of the Merced River and plunged down Vernal Fall. This year 16 people have died in Yosemite National Park. More than 90 deaths have occured this year in national parks throughout the U.S. Drowning is the most common cause of accidental death […]

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(CNN) — Park rangers suspended their search Monday afternoon for a teenage swimmer who was swept over a nearly 600-foot waterfall in California’s Yosemite National Park over the weekend.

Aleh Kalman had been swimming about 150 feet from the edge of the Nevada Fall on Saturday afternoon when he was caught up in the swift current of the Merced River, the National Park Service reported. The 19-year-old Sacramento resident had gone to the park with a church group, the park service said.

“We believe it’s impossible to survive a fall like that,” park spokeswoman Kari Cobb said.

Swimming above the 594-foot Nevada Fall is not illegal, but the river is marked by signs warning of the danger, Cobb said.

Water levels were too high to search safely Monday, Scott Gediman with the Yosemite National Park Service said.

Officials also announced Monday that a 28-year-old English climber on El Capitan was killed by a falling rock on Sunday. Felix Kiernan of London was about 600 feet up a climbing route when a large rock fell 150 feet and hit him. When rangers reached him a few hours later, he was already dead.

Searchers looked for Kalman on foot and by helicopter on Saturday but had to stop at nightfall. The grim task resumed Sunday, aided by three dog teams, the park service said.

The Merced River was running about 500 cubic feet per second on Saturday, “a very swift and powerful spring flow of water,” the park service noted in a written statement. That had gone up to about 650 cubic feet per second on Sunday.

“Although the park received only 50 percent of normal snow pack, rivers within the park continue to run at high levels this time of the year,” the service said. “Additionally, the water remains extremely cold and will be throughout the year.”

Three other people were swept over another Merced River waterfall, the 317-foot Vernal Fall, in 2011.

Yosemite is about 200 miles east of San Francisco.

By Matt Smith and Steve Almasy

CNN’s Dave Alsup contributed to this report.

The-CNN-Wire/™ & © 2013 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

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