Calif. Teenager on Church Trip to Yosemite Missing After 600-Foot Waterfall Plunge

A 19-year-old teenager from California who was on a church trip is still missing two days after falling down the 594-foot Nevada Fall in Yosemite National Park.

"They looked forward. They didn't think anything bad would happen," Denis Koleukhov of Second Slavic Baptist Church in Sacramento County told KCRA.

The teenager, Aleh Kalman, was reportedly swept over Nevada Fall on Saturday afternoon. Authorities searched for him all throughout Sunday, but as of Monday morning he remains missing.

Kalman was apparently visiting Yosemite, one of the most popular national parks in America, the vast majority of which is wilderness, with his church group. He had gone swimming above the waterfall when he got caught downstream and was last seen going over the precipice of the 594-foot drop.

The National Park Service reported that the California Highway Patrol sent a helicopter along with ground teams to look for the young man, and they searched the sides of the Merced River, aided by three dog teams and 20 ground Search and Rescue personnel.

"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," NPS announced on Sunday.

Monday morning, however, park officials told CNN that there is little hope the teenager could be found alive.

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

The Merced River, which Kalman is believed to have fallen in, is described as a "very swift and powerful spring flow of water" which flows at around 500 cubic feet per second (CFS), and has a temperature in the low 50s.

Park officials warn that visitors need to "exercise extreme caution" around all water in Yosemite, reminding people that although the park reported only 50 percent of normal snow pack this year, rivers still run at very high levels and remain very cold throughout the seasons.

NY Daily News reported that last August, two young brothers, a 6- and 10-year-old, respectively, were killed in Merced River after being swept over Vernal Fall by the river's currents. Another three hikers lost their lives in a similar incident in July 2011.