Tags: yosemite | swimmer | swept | over | falls

Yosemite Swimmer Swept Over Falls; Search for 19-Year-Old Continues

Image: Yosemite Swimmer Swept Over Falls; Search for 19-Year-Old Continues Water from the Merced River pours over Nevada Fall in Yosemite National Park, Calif.

Monday, 03 Jun 2013 12:59 PM

By Clyde Hughes

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Search crews on Sunday failed to find a 19-year-old Sacramento, Calif., teen who was swept over a 594-foot Nevada cliff while at a church outing Saturday afternoon.

Park rangers said Aleh Kalman was swimming about 150 feet from the falls when he was swept away by a current. He was swimming back from a rock in the middle of the river when the current pushed him downstream.

While swimming in the park's rivers is not illegal, officials urged "extreme caution" around water, saying rivers were running at high levels with low temperatures.

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Kalman came to the park with a church group and was hiking the Mist Trail when the accident occurred, according to park officials.

Ground teams, along with a California Highway Patrol helicopter, were immediately dispatched to the location of the waterfall to begin searching for Kalman. Search efforts continued Saturday and Sunday and resumed Monday.

"We believe it's impossible to survive a fall like that," park spokeswoman Kari Cobb told CNN.

On Saturday afternoon, the Merced River, which pours into Nevada Fall, was flowing at roughly 500 cubic feet per second (CFS), which is a very swift and powerful flow of water. On Sunday morning, the river was flowing at approximately 650 CFS with water temperatures in the low 50s.

"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 in a written statement. "Additionally, the water remains extremely cold and will be throughout the year."

The Mist Trail was closed on a temporary basis Sunday for ground teams to continue searching. Three dog teams and approximately 20 ground Search and Rescue personnel are searching the area for any signs of Kalman.

The majority of the park's search-and-rescue calls come from Mist Trail. In 2011, three young people from a Modesto, Calif., area church group were swept over the edge of the 317-foot Vernal Fall after climbing over a metal guardrail.

Yosemite, which is visited by millions each year, averages 12 to 15 deaths annually, according to park officials. Covering nearly 1,200 square miles across the Sierra Nevada mountain chain, Yosemite lies in the eastern portion of California. Nearly 95 percent of the park is designated wilderness, first protected by the U.S. government in 1864.

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Related stories:

Park Ranger: National Park Service Wants Public to 'Feel the Pain' of Cuts

Patrol: 16 Hurt in Bus Crash Near Yosemite Park

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