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Couple found dead in water outside Yosemite: ‘James died a hero’

LOS ANGELES — A Madera County couple was found dead in Angel Falls last week, prompting authorities to remind summer hikers about the dangers of swift waters during the summer snowmelt.

Monica Ledesma and James Hall, both 35, were found by the Madera County Sheriff’s Office on Wednesday after deputies received a report of an unresponsive woman in the water near Angel Falls.

Deputies first found Ledesma, then they “located items which led them to believe an adult male may also be missing.” Hall was subsequently found.

Hall’s family said in a GoFundMe that he was trying to save Ledesma when he died.

“James died a hero trying to save his girlfriend Monica,” they wrote. “Unfortunately, they both were taken from us.”

Authorities said that fast water can be dangerous even when it’s close to civilization.

“With locations such as Angel Falls that are close to parking lots and trails, hikers often have a false sense of security about the level of danger that exists,” the sheriff’s office said in a statement. “When hiking around the water, extra caution needs to be taken. Rocks can be extremely slippery even when they aren’t wet. One missed step can result in a serious injury or fatality.”

The water at Angel Falls is “extremely swift, and deadly cold,” the authorities said.

While deputies were searching for the couple, another report came in of a woman with a possible broken leg at Lewis Creek, authorities said.

The woman was found with a twisted ankle she suffered while hiking. She was carried out on a stretcher.

“Our hearts go out to the families of those who were lost at Angel Falls today,” said Madera County Sheriff Tyson Pogue. “We would like to thank our allied partners for their outstanding support and response to today’s events, whose simultaneous occurrence stretched resources. I applaud the efforts of the rescue and recovery teams, who performed their duties diligently and respectfully.”

Ledesma’s family described her as “a loving mother sister and daughter who left a daughter and son behind,” in a GoFundMe seeking to raise funds for her funeral.

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