Yosemite body identified as missing hiker

YOSEMITE -- Officials on Monday confirmed that a body found last week was that of one of two Central Valley hikers missing since being swept over Vernal Fall in July.

Yosemite National Park rangers found a second body near the same area Saturday; an autopsy will be conducted to confirm if it is the other missing hiker.

A ranger searching in the Merced River found the body of Ninos Yacoub on Nov. 29. It was about 100 feet below the Vernal Fall footbridge, said Ranger Scott Gediman, a park spokesman. A swift-water rescue team recovered the body, and the Mariposa County Sheriff's Department conducted the autopsy.

On Saturday, a ranger searching in the same area, about a half-mile from the falls, found another body. A Mariposa pathologist will conduct an autopsy to determine whether it is the body of Ramina Badal.

Badal, 21, Yacoub, 27, and Hormiz "Nenos" David, 22, fell into the river and were swept over the 317-foot waterfall July 19 while on a day trip to the park with friends. Search crews found and recovered David's body Aug. 5.

All three hikers were from the Central Valley -- Badal lived in Manteca, Yacoub in Turlock and David in Modesto.

Badal's father, Tony, said Monday afternoon that the family is waiting for further word from park rangers or the coroner's office, expected later this week.

"We are getting ready to hear the news," he said, adding that he appreciates the National Park Service's work in looking for the hikers and keeping their families informed.

Rangers have been conducting regular searches along the Mist Trail, which leads to the top of Vernal Fall. The recent drop in the river's speed -- 30 cubic feet per second last week and 15 cubic feet per second Saturday -- allowed searchers to get into the water and look deeper, Gediman said.

Yacoub's brother, Ashur, said Monday that the family was saddened but also comforted that the body had been found.

Ashur Yacoub said Ninos left behind "a lot of memories." Ninos Yacoub volunteered at Emanuel Medical Center and The Salvation Army, his brother said.

"He had a great personality. He was patient and understanding, a very funny guy," Ashur Yacoub said. "Very handsome, too -- that's what the girls told him."

Ninos Yacoub had been set to graduate this spring with a degree in chemistry from California State University, Stanislaus.

Ashur Yacoub said his family was waiting for information on the second body to plan a memorial service. The incident, which occurred when the three joined friends they'd met through a Ceres church, prompted an outpouring of grief and support from the area's close-knit Assyrian community. Hundreds turned out for prayer vigils, and for David's memorial service in August.