19-Year Old Swept Off 594-Foot Nevada Falls in Yosemite | Waterfall Safety Information:

Miles Clark |
Yosemite Falls, CA.  photo: miles clark
Yosemite Falls, CA. photo: miles clark

Yosemite’s waterfalls are some of the most beautiful in the world.  Yosemite has countless waterfalls but most visitors come to see the the biggest 10 waterfalls in the park.  594-foot Nevada Falls is one of the biggest and easiest to access and access is via the spectacular Mist Trail.

Unfortunately, Yosemite’s waterfalls also prove deadly every year.  Swift, cold spring snowmelt flows down slick granite causeways before leaping hundreds, if not thousands of feet off vertical cliffs.  This is precisely what makes Yosemite breathtaking and lifetaking.

12-15 deaths occur on average every year in Yosemite National Park.  Many of these are water related.

Nevada Falls, Yosemite, CA.  photo: miles clark
Nevada Falls, Yosemite, CA. photo: miles clark

At approximately 2:45 p.m. on Saturday, June 1, a visitor was witnessed being swept over the precipice of Nevada Fall in Yosemite National Park. Aleh Kalman, 19 year old male, from Sacramento, CA, came to the park with a church group and was hiking the Mist Trail when the accident occurred.”Yosemite National Park

Yes, there are signs.  Yes, there are warnings.  Yes, there are railings.  Yet, nearly every year, people are swept off Yosemite’s waterfalls.

No swimming sign above Nevada Falls, Yosemite.  photo:  miles clark
No swimming sign above Nevada Falls, Yosemite. photo: miles clark

The solution is simple:  Stay out of the water above waterfalls.  It sounds simple and it is.  But most accidents don’t occur from people swimming above the waterfalls (although the most recent accident was due to swimming).  Most everyone recognizes swimming above waterfalls as dangerous.

Don’t get near the water sign above Vernal Falls..  photo: miles clark

It’s our natural urge to push boundaries that is the cause of most Yosemite waterfall accidents.  In 2011, a group of students were just goofing off and taking pictures past the safety signs and railings.   Three of them fell in and were swept off 317-foot Vernal Falls.  It happens in an instant.

“They’re taking pictures and being stupid,” Bibee said. Ramina Badal, 21, of Manteca fell first. Then a  man plunged in after her. They were clinging to each other, Bibee said. LA Times

This is the story you hear again and again.  The victims often go to the edge of the water to ‘dip their toes in’ or ‘take a photo’ or ‘see how cold it is’ or ‘have a closer look’.  It’s this proximity to a flowing freight train about to leap off an unsurvivable precipice that initiates a formula for death.  Proximity leads to the possibility of falling or slipping into the water (Yosemite’s smooth granite is very slippery when wet).  Once you’re in, there is very little chance of getting out.

Vernal Falls, Yosemite, CA.  photo: miles clark
Vernal Falls, Yosemite, CA. photo: miles clark

The key is not to get close to the water in the first place.  There are so many great places to swim in and around Yosemite.  Above waterfalls is not one of those places.  If you and your friends and family go to Yosemite this year, make sure no one gets close to the water near waterfalls.  Getting close is the first piece of an equation that can lead to the next world in about 10 seconds.

Please, keep your distance from water when above waterfalls.  

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15 thoughts on “19-Year Old Swept Off 594-Foot Nevada Falls in Yosemite | Waterfall Safety Information:

  1. I’m so sorry…it must have been horrible for you. Wish I had done a better job of comforting my hurting campers. Randy was a ray of sunshine I won’t forget.

  2. Hi, I was an Australian tourist in 1980, and hiked up to Nevada Falls. Like others at the top, I took my shoes off and soaked my tired feet in the shallow water well back from the cataract, whose force of water frightened me. When I heard lightning crackling in the high country, I got out of there fast, descending to an outcrop of rock to protect my camera from the following storm. As I continued on to Curry Village, a helicopter was heading up the valley. When I reached my tent-cabin, the helicopter flew overhead with two bodies strapped on stretchers on the sides. These unfortunates stayed at the Falls and were washed over by the flash-flood that came from the storm. It could have been me, but for my presence of mind about places with no top soil to absorb the rain. Unforgettable experience.

  3. So good to read your response, David. Somehow hearing from someone who knew him at school is a way for me to connect again with Randy. I hope his parents finally found some sort of peace. May his memory be a blessing…

    1. I left a comment earlier – having been a camper on that trip, and considered to be Randy’s Trails West girlfriend on that awful day. I negelected to leave my name or email, and wasn’t sure if this thread was still active .I still think of that him often – even after amost 50 years.

  4. I was a counselor on a Trails West camp that went to Yosemite in July, 1971. One if my campers, Randy Friedman, 16, hopped the fence at Vernal Falls and before we knew it, he went over. I was 21…the worst experience of my life up to that point.
    Horrible…we never knew if his body was found. Wonderful boy. Lesson learned…nature is not benign and friendly.
    We were in such shock we started looking for him in the forest. Saw him go over and we still couldn’t get it through our heads.
    Anyway…thought I’d share this in his memory. Could never forget him.

    1. I knew Randy, and though it’s been nearly half a century, I still think about him from time to time. Our class at Ardsley High School was shocked by his death. The only possible good that came from it is that it’s given me — and I’m sure many others — a healthy respect for nature’s dangers; and an appreciation that guardrails, warning signs and the like are meant to be treated seriously.

      1. I was there and think of him often. There was no greif counseling back then, and beleive me… we needed it. He was a great kid, and just trying to fill his canteen.

    2. I was there – I was Randy’s girlfriend on that trip. It still haunts me after all these years. His mother wrote to me for a while, although we never met.

      1. I’m so sorry…it must have been horrible for you. Wish I had done a better job of comforting my hurting campers. Randy was a ray of sunshine I won’t forget.

    1. Thanks for sharing your memories. Always terrible to hear about this. 12-15 deaths a year? Crazy! I live an hour North of Yellowstone National Park. Over the last 20 years, YNP has averaged 1.9 deaths per year. That’s with the hazards of hot water, rivers, lakes, elk, bear, bison and -30° and 3’ of snow in the winter. Jam 3million humans through each summer and I’m surprised there are not more fatalities. I’m driving into YNP tomorrow (Nov 1st) for the last day of the season. Wish me luck!

      1. Thanks for your reply, RiverTalker. I have just been reading other stories about those that fell from Half Dome. Lots of tragedies take place in your National Parks. I have been to YNP three times in summer months, and found the place so beautiful. I am a summer freak, and follow the sun wherever I travel – so far 38 times out of Australia to 45 countries (including 18 times to the US. We only get snow on 1% of Australia, as only 7% is above 2,000 feet. Having said that, my small city is only two hour’s drive to a fabulous ski resort of Falls Creek. Went there three times in winter, didn’t like the cold, and haven’t put my feet on snow since 1975. Friends in Southern Siberia always wanted me to visit them for Christmas and NYE, but with minus 40 degrees, I decided to visit them last year in July. Enjoy your travels. Will Trump get up? Cheers, Colin. colinabs@bigpond.com

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