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Limited search continues for man swept over Yosemite waterfall

It is “impossible” for a Sacramento man to have survived being swept over Nevada Fall in Yosemite National Park over the weekend, a park spokesman said Sunday.

Park rangers are continuing a limited search for Aleh Kalman, 19, who witnesses said was swimming above the 594-foot fall Saturday. He was swimming about 150 feet from the fall’s precipice when the current swept him over the edge, officials said.

“It’s almost a 600-foot vertical drop; we do believe it’s impossible to survive a fall like that,” said Scott Gedamin, a park spokesman.

PHOTOS: Yosemite waterfalls

Rangers spent the weekend looking for Kalman, but given the depth of the waters in Yosemite right now, the search is limited to what rangers can see from park trails, Gedamin said.

Kalman was hiking the Mist Trail with a church group and was trying to swim to shore from a rock in the middle of the river, officials said.

Park rangers combed the banks of the Merced River below the fall for signs of Kalman but found nothing, Gedamin said. At the time of the incident, the river was flowing at a “a very swift and powerful” speed – 500 cubic feet per second, according to park officials.

The Mist Trail was temporarily closed as crews, including 20 search-and-rescue personnel and three dogs, looked for Kalman.

Officials urged “extreme caution” around water in the park, saying rivers were running at high levels with low temperatures. 

The majority of search-and-rescue calls at Yosemite come from along the popular Mist Trail. In 2011, three young people from a Modesto-area church group were swept over the edge of the 317-foot Vernal Fall after climbing over a metal guardrail.

Yosemite, which is visited by millions each year, averages 12 to 15 deaths annually, according to park officials.

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Twitter: @vicjkim

victoria.kim@latimes.com 

Joseph.serna@latimes.com

@josephserna

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