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Visitor Survives Plunge Into Yosemite Falls

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avatar Visitor Survives Plunge Into Yosemite Falls
June 06, 2014 07:26AM
Around noon on Wednesday, May 28th, park dispatch received an emergency call from a group of backpackers who reported that one of their number had fallen into the Middle Cascade of Yosemite Falls. The victim, a 22-year-old man from Union City, California, was on a backpacking trip with three of his friends. When they stopped on their return trip at the Middle Cascade at the base of Upper Yosemite Fall, he fell into the water while reaching for his sunglasses. He was swept several hundred feet through the 675-foot-high Middle Cascade into an eddy in a pool of water, where he was able to climb onto a large boulder in the middle of the cascade.

Immediately upon receiving the call, a Yosemite search and rescue team was dispatched to the location of the incident along the Upper Yosemite Fall Trail. At the same time, the park’s contract helicopter was ordered out for a reconnaissance flight.

With members of the initial ground team acting as spotters from the edge of the gorge, the helicopter inserted Ranger Ed Visnovske via short haul to the man’s location. He was found to be slightly hypothermic, but otherwise uninjured. Visnovske and the man were then short hauled to Yosemite Valley, where the man declined medical treatment.

Yosemite Valley District Ranger Jack Hoeflich was IC for this rescue.
Re: Visitor Survives Plunge Into Yosemite Falls
June 06, 2014 08:00AM
Wow! That's remarkable that he survived that at all...much less with nothing more than being "slightly hypothermic!"
Re: Visitor Survives Plunge Into Yosemite Falls
June 06, 2014 11:33AM
Holy schnoikees! He lived??!?

One in a billion.
Re: Visitor Survives Plunge Into Yosemite Falls
June 06, 2014 03:08PM
avatar Re: Visitor Survives Plunge Into Yosemite Falls
June 06, 2014 09:10PM
He was still in the upper portion almost at the base of the falls.
Much farther down and he would have made it to the truly nasty portion.

This is also quite a reminder of why NPS has a helopad at Crane Flat with a copter and pilot ready to go. Would he have still been 'slightly hypothermic' if they'd had to wait for a copter to fly in from Fresno or elsewhere?

He has the luck of the Irish. Could have so easily turned out worst!

(speaking of, any news about that guy that went missing in the area?)

Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 06/06/2014 09:13PM by qumqats.
Re: Visitor Survives Plunge Into Yosemite Falls
June 07, 2014 05:13AM
If you mean the guy in the sweats they found his body in the pool at the base of the falls 10 days after he went missing. Not publicized so far as I know, for some reason.
avatar Re: Visitor Survives Plunge Into Yosemite Falls
June 07, 2014 11:09AM
Are you referring to George Penca who went missing in June 2011 (last seen above Yosemite Falls)?

If so, they should have publicized it enough so at least he is not listed as still missing on a good number missing persons websites.
avatar Re: Visitor Survives Plunge Into Yosemite Falls
June 07, 2014 10:54AM
A more detailed account from Yosemite National Park's Search & Rescue blog:

Hiker Slips and Falls into the Middle Cascades of Yosemite Falls
June 06, 2014 Posted by: Yosemite Search and Rescue

On May 28, 2014, at approximately 11:45 am, the Yosemite Emergency Communications Center received a 911 call from an individual in a party of four backpackers stating that one of the members of the party had fallen into the creek at the base of Upper Yosemite Fall. The reporting party and two other friends were in the boulders near the base of the falls and could see the subject stranded on the boulder in the middle of the river. Two park rangers were dispatched to the scene to evaluate the degree of the emergency and the resources necessary to perform a rescue. The rangers arrived on scene approximately 45 minutes after the 911 call and located the reporting party, who led the rangers to an area where they could see the subject. The subject was lying on a boulder below a series of cascades in class V+ whitewater in an area commonly referred to as the “Inner Gorge.”

The reporting party stated that his friend was scrambling around on wet slabs near the gorge when he slipped and fell in. The subject was extremely fortunate that another member of his party happened to see him fall, as they were slightly separated at the time of the incident. The creek flushed him through over 100 feet of whitewater before he was able to pull himself onto a boulder in the middle of the gorge. Had the subject been unable to self-rescue by getting onto the rock, he would have taken fatal plunge over a waterfall. (See photo below.) The park rangers determined that an emergent extrication was necessary because of the potential for serious injuries and hypothermia.

Park rangers considered two plans: attempt a helicopter short-haul operation or perform a rope extrication. It was determined that any sort of rope rescue would take a significant amount of time due to the extremely wet and technical terrain. A delayed rescue had the potential to exacerbate the victim’s hypothermic condition. Nevertheless, additional search and rescue team members began hiking to the scene with equipment to perform a rope extrication as a contingency plan. Meanwhile, park helicopter 551 performed a reconnaissance fly-over to determine if a short-haul operation would be possible. This area of the falls has high gusting winds that can make flight operations unsafe. Fortunately, the helicopter pilot determined that he could safely perform the short-haul operation. He returned to Ahwahnee Meadow, where he picked up the short-haul attendant. The attendant was flown and inserted into the subject’s location, where he detached from the short-haul line. He quickly put the victim into a harness and the helicopter returned and lifted both out of the gorge and back to Ahwahnee Meadow. The subject was then transferred to an ambulance, where he was treated for hypothermia. He sustained no other injuries and was released. [Watch a video of the rescue.]

When hiking in areas with swiftwater, stay on the trail and away from the water. Rocks along rivers and creeks are extremely slick when dry, and even more so when wet. Many visitors slip on slick rock every year and a few are swept away, often suffering serious injuries or death. Look where the current will take you before approaching the water. Even water that looks calm can have powerful—often deadly— currents.


Re: Visitor Survives Plunge Into Yosemite Falls
June 07, 2014 02:43PM
Unbelievable...yes one in a billion....
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