Yosemite SAR Incidents 7/29, 7/31, 8/1
Posted: Fri Aug 09, 2019 4:48 pm
“My foot caught, I started sliding and then tumbling down the rock, and then I fell over the edge...I just thought I might die” -- past Bridalveil Fall patient
This week in Yosemite, there have been three significant incidents, including a fatality, at the base of waterfalls in Yosemite Valley.
Two incidents occurred at the base of Bridalveil Fall, the first on Monday, July 29, and the second on Wednesday, July 31. In both cases, the subjects hiked to the viewing platform below Bridalveil Fall and then left the established trail to scramble up the boulder field toward the base of the waterfall, bypassing signs that advise against leaving the trail. According to witnesses in both cases, the subjects slipped off wet boulders and took 20-foot falls near the base of Bridalveil Fall. Responding to 9-1-1 calls for help, rescuers donned climbing helmets and approach shoes with sticky rubber soles, scrambled up through the dangerous terrain to the subjects, and provided advanced life support medical care. Yosemite Helitack, using the park helicopter (H-551), extracted the subjects by short-haul and flew them to El Capitan Meadow, where they were transferred to ambulances.
The third incident occurred on Thursday, August 1 at the base of Lower Yosemite Fall. The subject slipped off a boulder and fell into Yosemite Creek, at one point becoming trapped underwater between several rocks. The subject was able to escape and bystanders then helped the subject out of the water. Rescuers responded, provided medical care, and carried the subject out by wheeled litter to an awaiting ambulance.
Hundreds of visitors scramble in the boulder fields below these waterfalls every day during the hottest months of summer. The granite boulders have been polished smooth by falling water and are extremely slippery whether dry or wet. Additionally, the height of the boulders varies considerably and the consequences of falling are often overlooked or underestimated. Over the last few years at Bridalveil Fall alone, there have been 23 documented incidents in which visitors have slipped and injured themselves, 14 of which involved head injuries. Although others may be engaging in the same activity, do not perceive popularity as an endorsement for your safety. When you go into these areas, you’re not only exposing yourself to serious injury, but also your rescuers.
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(Note: while these areas are not closed, we recommend against entering them.)