British rock-climber dies in Yosemite park, second death in days

LOS ANGELES (AFP) - A 28-year-old British man died in a rock climbing accident in California's Yosemite National Park, officials said, the second fatality in two days in the world-famous natural wonder.

Londoner Felix Joseph Kiernan and a climbing partner were scaling El Capitan, a huge granite monolith which dominates Yosemite Valley in the heart of the spectacular park, when he was struck by falling rock on Sunday.

The pair "were approximately 600 feet up the climbing route when a loose block was dislodged," the park said in a statement on Monday, estimating the size of the rock at two feet by one foot.

"The block .. fell approximately 150 feet before striking Kiernan and causing fatal injuries," it said. The accident happened around 2:00 p.m. Park rangers reached him about two hours later and pronounced him dead.

A helicopter hoisted his body back down to the valley floor, while rangers rappelled back down the rock face with his climbing partner and a second climbing party, which had sounded the alarm.

On Saturday a 19-year-old, Aleh Kalman from nearby Sacramento, was reportedly swept over the Nevada Fall, a waterfall on the park's popular Mist Trail hiking route.

Witnesses reported seeing him swimming above Nevada Fall, some 150 feet from the precipice, trying to swim from a rock in the middle of the river "when he was swept away by the current. His body has not yet been recovered.

Yosemite, a spectacular park which draws millions of visitors from the US and around the world every year, has some 12-15 deaths annually, according to the Los Angeles Times newspaper.

Last year park authorities issued a warning to over 200,000 people who had visited the park after three people died from the rodent-borne hantavirus disease.