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RAW: Visitor Swept Over Nevada Fall, another dies after rock climbing accident

June 3, 2013

One person is missing after being swept over 594-foot Nevada Fall in Yosemite National Park Saturday, June 1 and another has died after a rock climbing accident in the park on Sunday, June 2, according to park service officials.

According to news releases from the park, a 19-year-old Sacramento man was swept over Nevada Fall on Saturday, June 1 and a 28-year-old London man died after being struck by a rock while climbing El Capitan on Sunday, June 2.

"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," according to a news release from the park service. "Aleh Kalman, 19, Sacramento,came to the park with a church group and was hiking the Mist Trail when the accident occurred.

"Kalman was witnessed swimming above Nevada Fall, approximately 150 feet from the precipice, when he was swept away by the current. Witnesses reported to park officials that he was swimming back from a rock in the middle of the river when the current swept him downstream to the edge of the waterfall.

"Ground teams, along with a California Highway Patrol (CHP) helicopter, were immediately dispatched to the location of the waterfall to begin searching for Kalman. Search efforts continued throughout the evening until fading light prevented further efforts.

"Yesterday afternoon, the Merced River which feeds the 594 foot waterfall, was flowing at approximately 500 cubic feet per second (CFS), which represents a very swift and powerful spring flow of water. Currently, the river is flowing at approximately 650 CFS with water temperature in the low 50’s. Water levels and temperatures are expected to remain relatively the same throughout the week.

"The Mist Trail, from the footbridge above Emerald Pool to the top of Nevada Fall, is temporarily closed at this time in order for ground teams to continue searching the area below the waterfall. Yosemite National Park Rangers will continue search efforts throughout the day. These efforts consist primarily of combing each side of the Merced River looking for the victim. Three dog teams and approximately 20 ground Search and Rescue (SAR) personnel are searching the area for any signs of Kalman.

"Visitors are urged to exercise extreme caution around all water in Yosemite National Park. 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. Additionally, the water remains extremely cold and will be throughout the year.

No further information is available at this time. The park will issue a news release when new information becomes available."

"A twenty eight year old climber died in a rock climbing accident on El Capitan in Yosemite National Park yesterday afternoon, Sunday, June 2, according to another news release from the park.

"Felix Joseph Kiernan, from London, England, was climbing on the East Buttress of El Capitan, a popular climbing route in Yosemite Valley, when he was struck by a rock," the news release states.

"Kiernan and his climbing partner were approximately 600 feet up the climbing route when a loose block was dislodged. The block, estimated to be one foot by two feet, fell approximately 150 feet before striking Kiernan and causing fatal injuries. The incident occurred at approximately 2 p.m.

"A second party climbing just below Kiernan immediately called the Yosemite Emergency Communication Center via cell phone and reported the incident. Yosemite Park Rangers and Yosemite Search and Rescue (SAR) personnel were immediately dispatched to El Capitan where they began climbing the route to reach the climbing party.

"Park Rangers reached Kiernan around 4 p.m. and pronounced him deceased. A California Highway Patrol (CHP) helicopter, H-40, and the park’s helicopter, Helicopter 551, assisted in the incident by inserting Park Rangers and rescue equipment onto the wall and hoisting the victim to Yosemite Valley. Park Rangers rappelled the route with Kiernan's partner and the second climbing party."

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