(KRON) — A Petaluma native who fell into rushing rapids at Yosemite National Park and vanished for seven days was found deceased, according to his family.
Hayden Klemenok, 24, was backpacking with friends when he fell into the water at Upper Chilnualna Falls on July 2. Yosemite search and rescue crews scoured the park for days looking for the missing man while his family waited in agony for answers.
Klemenok’s sister, Taylor McKinnie, posted a statement on her Facebook page Tuesday reporting that his body had been found. “On Sunday morning, we were notified that Hayden had been located,” she wrote.
“Hayden’s cause of passing is presumed to be an accidental drowning,” McKinnie wrote.
The backpacker’s body was found in location that was logistically complex to recover. “It took another 24 (hours) to formally recover him,” McKinnie wrote.
Klemenok was a college athlete who played baseball at a Santa Rosa junior college. He graduated from San Diego State University just two months before his death.
According to Yosemite park officials, river water temperatures are so cold that it can cause even a strong, experienced swimmer to struggle. The National Park Service wrote, “Mountain water is extremely cold. Keep in mind that one misstep on a rock, even above a seemingly calm pool, may result in inability to escape from a hazard downstream.”
NPS officials said Yosemite’s waterfalls are, “incredibly beautiful,” powerful, and potentially deadly. Backpackers said Klemenok was trying to dip his head into Chilnualna Creek to cool off in hot weather when the accident happened.
Shortly after Klemenok disappeared, his family members hiked the Chilnualna Falls trail searching for any signs of him. Weather and water levels along the river were “constantly changing” during the search effort, according to McKinnie.
Klemenok’s family said it now has a long road ahead for grieving and adjusting to “our new lives without our irreplaceable, unforgettable brother and son whom we cherish and immeasurably miss.”
A GoFundMe page has raised more than $60,000 for the victim’s family. McKinnie said a memorial service will be planned for Klemenok.
McKinnie wrote that her family, “will never stop loving our Hayden, and today, (we) are finally able to say we are all leaving Yosemite ‘together.'”