July 11, 1996 Science News
YOSEMITE VALLEY ROCKFALL FATAL TO VISITORby Staff Science Writers, The Daily Republican Newspaper
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YOSEMITE - Large boulders resting at Glacier Point have fallen from heights of more than 2,000 feet onto the Vernal Fall Trail and Happy Isles Nature Center area on the floor of Yosemite Valley. At least one person has been killed in the rockfall. As many as six others have been injured, according to the National Park Service on Wednesday night. Park Superintendent B.J. Griffin, said that Rangers had dogs at the rockfall site looking for any other people who may have been covered-over in the debris. Dust from the incident was so extensive that search efforts were delayed until after dark Wednesday night.
Park Rangers have been unable to account for the whereabouts of at least three Park visitors who are believed to have been in the area of the Glacier Point rockfall on Wednesday. NPS representatives reported that one person had been air-lifted out of Yosemite. This person is a young woman listed in critical condition with fractures in her neck, arms and legs.
One possible explanation for the rockfall is the Glacier Point construction project on a large granite amphitheater near the affected area. A large shelf of granite appears to have collapsed and may have been the proximate cause of sending adjacent boulders over the edge of the 2,000 foot cliff to the Valley floor below. The rockfall went over the Glacier Point cliffs near the point where the famous "Firefall" took place every summer night just after sunset from the early 1900's until 1967.
Although natural rock slides have caused major damage during earthquakes in the past, there is no indication of a temblor in this major rockfall from the top of Glacier Point.
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