Memorial service honors hikers swept over Yosemite waterfall

utcexst111.jpgBy Patty Guerra
MODESTO — Hundreds of people joined the family and friends of Ramina Badal and Ninos Yacoub on Saturday morning to share memories and grieve.

Mourners filled the Mar Zaia Cathedral of the Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church in Modesto, overflowing into the lobby and outside for the funeral services of Badal and Yacoub. They, along with Hormiz “Nenos” David, 22, died in July when they fell into the Merced River and were swept over Vernal Fall on a day trip to Yosemite National Park.

Rangers recently found the remains of Badal, 21, and Yacoub, 27, near the 317-foot waterfall. Searchers found David’s body in August; a service for him also attracted hundreds of people.
PG Vernal Falls service
Modesto Bee – Patty Guerra/ Some of Ninos YAcoub’s artwork and favorite items are displayed at Larsa Hall in Turlock. A service for Yacoub and Ramina Badal took place Saturday morning. They, along with Hormiz “Nenos” David, fell to their deaths over Vernal Fall in Yosemite in July. December 17, 2011

“We want to keep it quiet and spiritual,” said Agnes Benjamin, a member of the families’ church who was helping to arrange a lunch at the Larsa Hall in Denair. “We just want to make the families feel comfortable.”

Another family friend, Ramina Kiryakous, said more than 1,000 were expected for the lunch reception, which followed burial at Turlock Memorial Park.

At the church Saturday morning, flowers arranged in the shapes of angels stood at the altar. The caskets — pewter for Yacoub and white for Badal, remained in the lobby until the service began. Yacoub’s casket was adorned with red roses and white lilies; Badal’s had white roses and lilies and the flute she loved to play. Her family also asked for a piano to be set up at the hall, Kiryakous said. Badal’s sister, Tanya, planned to play.

As the service began, young men in white shirts and dark ties carried candles, as did young women with colorful hats and cardigan sweaters over their black skirts and dresses. Wailing could be heard almost immediately.

Copies of the missing persons poster originally posted at Yosemite, with photographs of the three hikers on their last day, were posted on the front walls of the church. Someone had written “Please Pray for Us” at the top, added three crosses and taped a flower to the bottom of the poster.

Friends said the families of the three hikers have become very close, relying on their faith and each other to get through their ordeal.

On a Facebook site dedicated to Yacoub, his family posted the following:

“We take this time to extend our deep condolences to the Badal family, for the loss of their daughter Ramina. We hold you in our prayers constantly, along with the David family, that our Lord God gives us all the strength and comfort which will carry us through this time of great sorrow. We also thank all those who have extended their sympathies and support to our family, whether in person, over the telephone, or through Facebook.”

Bee staff writer Patty Guerra can be reached at or (209) 578-2343.

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