Fatalities Increase in Yosemite National Park
California's Yosemite National Park is known for its breath taking views and cascading waterfalls. But this summer it's earning a reputation for something far more sinister—a skyrocketing amount of deaths.
By this time of year there are typically five or six deaths reported at Yosemite. But so far this summer, that number has more than doubled. So what's causing this alarming rise in deaths?
On July 31, Haley LaFlamme fell 600 feet to her death after slipping on rain slick granite at Yosemite's Half Dome.
Weeks earlier, three park visitors were killed when they lost their footing after crossing over a protective railing while trying to snap a memorable photo.
The month before, two backpackers were swept away while crossing a bridge partially submerged in water.
And several others slipped on steep trails, falling to their deaths.
In all, fifteen people have lost their lives following accidents this year in Yosemite.
INSIDE EDITION's Lisa Guerrero hiked to Vernall Falls, one of the most popular trails at Yosemite National Park. Almost 2,000 visitors hike the trail. INSIDE EDITION wanted to see how safe it really is.
Park Ranger Scott Gediman lead Guerrero up the trail which was narrow and slick with water. Guerrero couldn't believe it when she saw people walking up the rough terrain in flip flops, and even barefoot.
Then, INSIDE EDITION's cameras caught an even more alarming site. Some kids below Guerrero were just a few feet away from raging water. Obviously very dangerous. They had gone outside the guard rails.
And more drama unfolded with a helicopter rescue.
Unfortunately, scenes like this are all too common in Yosemite. Hikers falling, hikers drowning, and in another case, one hiker was biten by a rattle snake.
As Guerrero neared the top of the awe inspiring Vernal Fall, a warning sign reminds hikers of the friends killed after crossing into fast moving water just to take that doomed photo.
Guerrero asked Gediman, "What are some the biggest hazards you enounter here?"
"We have these guard rails here for a reason and people go over the guard rails. We had that incident at Vernal Fall. We have a lot of people going near cliffs and a lot of times it's a tragic accident," said Gediman.
A heavier-than-normal snowpack that's now melting is also creating treacherous water conditions.
"Why dont you take more precautions to warn people about possible dangers here?" asked Guerrero.
"We have signs on trails. We have guard rails," said Gediman.
But some family members of victims ask whether the park could do more. On the day Haley LaFlamme fell to her death, a severe thunderstorm had struck.
"We knew that the storm was coming. The hikers were advised not to go to the top of Half Dome, but we don't stop them," said Gediman.
"Let me stop you right there. Why dont you close down the trails?" asked Guerrero.
"We don't close down the trails because visiitors have to make the choices on where they want to go. Ultimately they make their own decisions," said Gediman.
It's a reminder that Yosemite may possess unrivaled beauty, but it also demands respect.
Booklets containing all safety guidelines are given to visitors as they enter the park, and during the wintertime, the park does shutdown some trails deemed too dangerous because of snowy conditions.