Updated after the jump: Meyer's wife says her husband was trying to save Fox's life when the two were swept away.
Two Whittier men in their 50s who worked in the emergency room at the Presbyterian Intercommunity Hospital died early Wednesday morning. Gregory Meyer and Richard Fox were backpacking with three other hikers, including Meyer's wife Paula, in Yosemite, when they reached a bridge running over the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir.
According to ABC7, the bridge — where Gregory had proposed to Paula years before — was “filled with water from rain and snow runoff.” When the two men tried to cross it Wednesday, they were reportedly swept away by the waterfall. As of this morning, one was found dead in the resorvoir and the other was missing, presumed dead as well.
The hikers were on the tail end of a days-long loop that started at O'Shaughnessy Dam. According to NBC LA, “officials said that though the bridge was open to the public, water levels were extremely high at the bridge because of melting snow and recent rainfall.”
Says Paula, Gregory's widow and the mother of his twin girls: “He was a man of the earth, completely without pretense. His greatest love, excepting his family, was reviving his Grandfather's ranch in Merced. … He was an exceptional husband and father. I will always cherish him.”
Yosemite spokeswoman Kari Cobb told the San Francisco Chronicle the hikers may have been trying to
take a shortcut avoid a much longer route:
“The bridge had a lot of water on it,” Cobb said. “Here at the park, the way it works, you are responsible for taking your own risk and making your own decisions on safety.”
The backpackers were about 5 miles from the trailhead. Cobb said they could have gotten back by taking an alternate route that would have added several miles to their trip.
Update: Paula is now telling reporters that only Fox fell over the bridge. Gregory, on the other hand, was swept into the waterfall while “trying to hang on” to his friend.
Yosemite spokeswoman Cobb also emailed us to clarify that “the group of backpackers were on the main trail back to the trailhead and were not taking a shortcut. There are other trails out of the Hetch Hetchy area. However, the next trail from their location would have taken them 19 miles out of their way and back to the original trailhead.”