Three Christian hikers are feared dead after they were swept over a waterfall by strong currents, as they posed for a photograph in Yosemite National Park.
The three victims were taking photos at the picturesque site about 25 feet from the edge of the waterfall when they were pulled over by the surging waters and down the 317 foot Vernall Fall.
Jake Bibee, a witness, told reporters: “Everyone was screaming. People were praying. What I will take away with me forever is the look on that grown man’s face as he was floating down that river knowing he was going to die and nobody could help them.”
The three missing people are Hormiz David, 22, Ninos Yacoub, 27, and Ramina Badal, 21.
The victims allegedly ignored warnings by onlookers who had told them of the dangers and insisted they come back. Signs in several languages warn people not to cross a barricade at the site of the waterfall.
The tragedy happened as two of the groups tried to make their way to a rock in the middle of the fast-flowing Merced River. One of the friends slipped, which led to the second victim attempting to rescue the first. When the second got into trouble the third friend tried to intervene, but was also swept off their feet.
Park authorities released a statement, saying, “The area is signed as a dangerous area, and the group had crossed a metal guardrail placed there to keep visitors away from the dangerous fast-moving water.”
It has emerged that the three victims were from a close-knit community of Christians originally from the Middle East, The Times newspaper has reported.
Yosemite is one of the most-visited national parks in the U.S., although eight people have died during their visits so far this year.