Search and rescue crews in Yosemite National Park continued looking Thursday for a 6-year-old boy who was swept away in the Merced River the previous day.
His 10-year-old brother, who was also taken downstream, was found dead about 150 yards away shortly after the incident occurred, making him the fifth death from a fatal accident in the park this year.
The names of the brothers were not immediately released because they are minors.
Their mother was hospitalized with a back injury after being pulled from the river as well, authorities said.
The boys were on a hiking trip with 15 extended family members from Southern California, according to park spokeswoman Kari Cobb. They began their excursion at the Happy Isles trailhead before stopping about one mile in near the Vernal Fall footbridge.
Cobb said the boys were wading in the water when they were swept downstream by the Merced River current.
The 10-year-old was pulled from the river and CPR was initiated by a park visitor, but resuscitation efforts were unsuccessful and the boy was pronounced dead.
Search efforts were launched in the Merced River between the Vernal Fall footbridge and Happy Isles for the 6-year-old, who is presumed dead.
The Mist Trail, a popular hike in the Yosemite Valley that follows the Merced River past Vernal Fall and Emerald Pool to Nevada Fall, remained open but portions were to be periodically closed throughout the day to accommodate search and rescue operations.
Cobb said the search efforts involve crews walking the riverbank with some going into bigger pools and some diving into deeper waters. She said the river is at a low level due to this winter’s low snowpack so more of it is accessible than if it were at a higher level.
Visitors are allowed to wade or swim in any part of the river that is not a watershed area, but the portion near the Vernal Fall footbridge can be particularly treacherous, Cobb said.
“There’s a lot of boulders and debris,” she said. “It’s definitely one of the most rough parts of Yosemite Valley.”
Three people were killed last summer after falling into the river and plummeting more than 300 feet over Vernal Fall. Their bodies were found downstream nearly five months later.
Cobb said search and rescue teams would continue looking for the boy Thursday evening until it became too dark to see. They were going back out this morning if he still wasn’t found.
The death of the 10-year-old came two weeks after a 57-year-old San Mateo man drowned in the Cosmic swimming hole just before the Arch Rock entrance station near El Portal.
Russ Wright was swimming with his daughter when he got swept away in an outtake that continues into the Merced River. He got pinned below a boulder and drowned, according to Cobb.
Francisco Garcia, 41, of South Gate, drowned in the park a month earlier. He was at a deep swimming hole with his two sons when the youngest began struggling in the water, Cobb said.
He went over to help but the boy’s older brother pulled him to shore and somehow in the commotion Garcia drowned. He was pulled from the water but could not be revived.
Both drownings went unannounced by park officials, who have said they do not publicly report every accidental death that occurs.
Cobb has said in the past that their decision to release the information depends on various factors including the number of eyewitnesses at the scene.
Days prior to the Garcia’s drowning, Michael J. Ybarra, of Los Angeles, fell to his death while attempting to traverse the Sawtooth Ridge on the northern border of the park.
The 45-year-old freelance journalist and rock climber set out June 30 to tackle the notoriously difficult traverse by himself, but family members notified law enforcement days later when he didn’t return when planned.
His body was found by park officials and a Mono County search and rescue team July 3.
The first fatality of the year occurred in January when a seasonal park ranger was killed by a falling tree. Ryan Hiller, 27, of Chapel Hill, N.C., was crushed after a windstorm blew the tree into his tent cabin in Curry Village.
Although not considered a park fatality by park officials, a Bay Area man died in late July after contracting hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, a rare rodent-borne illness. Public health officials believe he may have contracted the virus while vacationing in Curry Village between June 10 and 13.
Cobb said six people have died of natural causes within the park this year.
In all, the fatality rate is far down from last year, which saw 13 accidental deaths. Seven also died of natural causes.The average number of people who die each year in Yosemite ranges from 12 to 15.