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Missing hiker found dead in Yosemite at bottom of waterfall

Yosemite National Park

The body of a 73-year-old hiker missing since Sunday in Yosemite National Park was found at the base of a popular waterfall, officials said.

Kenneth Stensby's body was spotted by searchers at the base of Vernal Fall at about 6 p.m. Monday and was extricated at about 1 p.m. Tuesday, park officials said in a statement.

The statement said the Minnesota man, described as an avid hiker, was fatally injured after falling from a cliff near the top of the 317-foot waterfall. His death marked the first accidental fatality at the park this year, spokeswoman Kari Cobb said.

Searchers scoured the park's popular Mist Trail, which leads to the waterfall, after Stensby failed to return from a day hike Sunday. He had been staying in the park for several days, park officials said, and left a note at the Ahwahnee Hotel advising the staff that he would be back at about noon.

Hotel staff members contacted rangers when they realized he hadn't returned, park officials. Stensby's day pack was found near a guardrail at the top of Vernal Fall. His camera was missing.

The waterfall is a popular stop for park visitors, albeit one that has made headlines in recent years.

In August, a 10-year-old boy and his 6-year-old brother died after they were caught in a current at the Vernal Fall footbridge. The summer before, three people were swept over the waterfall after witnesses said they climbed over the barricade at the top. None survived.

Cobb said she couldn't speculate as to what Stensby might have been doing before he fell, but she reminded visitors to exercise caution in the park.

"Yosemite by geography has a lot of cliffs, and it is a very rugged area," she said. "We do urge visitors to be cautious to matter where they're hiking."

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kate.mather@latimes.com

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