California couple killed in rockslide while visiting Yosemite National Park

Upper Yosemite Fall in Autumn
(Image credit: Jingmin Zhou / 500px)

A married couple from California died in a rockslide while visiting Yosemite National Park just after Christmas, The accident happened on December 27, at approximately 9am. In a statement, the National Park Service identified the two victims as 51-year-old Georgios Theocharous and 35-year-old Ming Yan, who were on a vacation from San Jose. 

Theocharous and Yan were driving a rented Dodge Ram along El Porto Road, when the vehicle was hit by rocks falling 1,000ft from the cliffs above. The force of the fall pushed the truck off the road and onto an embankment of the Merced River.

The road was closed temporarily following the rockslide, but has now reopened according to a post on Yosemite National Park's Twitter account.

Incidents where one or two rocks tumble off a cliff are quite common, and are known as rockfalls according to the Colorado Geological Survey (CGS). A rockslide, on the other hand, is much more like an avalanche, and involves a large volume of rocks or debris.

They can be triggered by various factors, including tectonic and seismic activity, subterranean erosion, vegetation removal, the freeze-thaw process (where water expands inside a crack in a rock as it freezes, causing the stone to fracture), glacial recession, and mining. 

Rockfalls are particularly dangerous because they can happen at any time without warning, and rocks can move extremely fast in unpredictable directions. The CGS explains that motorists are more likely to be hit than hikers, but if you're on foot you can help keep yourself safe by avoiding steep, rocky terrain during spring thaw and after heavy rain, watching out for areas with signs of recent rockfall, staying on the trail and making use of switchbacks.

Cat Ellis

Cat is the editor of Advnture, She’s been a journalist for 15 years, and was fitness and wellbeing editor on TechRadar before joining the Advnture team in 2022. She’s a UK Athletics qualified run leader, and in her spare time enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the roads and trails (the muddier, the better), usually wearing at least two sports watches.