The man who fell into the Merced River in Yosemite National Park and is still missing has been identified by friends as Kevin Nelson, who lived and worked in Yosemite Valley but has strong ties to Fresno.
In Fresno, he was a bartender at the Daily Planet, Zapp’s Park and other nightclubs, said Mark Michel of Fresno, a friend from high school.
Parks officials informed Nelson’s family on Tuesday he was missing in the river, Michel said.
Yosemite National Park reported that a man was hiking the popular Mist Trail when he fell into the river about 12:30 p.m. Monday. Searchers are continuing to look for him.
Michel said Nelson, 50, hiked the Mist Trail nearly every day. The water is running so swiftly that searchers can only search from the river bank and can’t go in the water, he said.
Nelson is a 1985 graduate of Kingsburg High who had “a love for life” that gained him legion of friends, Michel said.
“He was a friendly guy, always quick with a smile,” Michel said. “He’d buy you a drink, buy you a meal at the drop of a hat.”
As a bartender, if a customer had too much to drink he’d give him a ride home, Michel said.
Several years ago, he was a co-owner of Zapp’s Park nightclub.
“He got along with everyone,” said Pete Mejia, his former business partner at Zapp’s Park. “He grew up on a farm, he had respect for the workers. He was kind of a Renaissance person. He got along with everyone.”
He described Nelson as “very approachable, very talkative. And a good listener.”
Nelson also worked for a time for the Fresno County Department of Agriculture as a seasonal employee.
About four or five years ago, he moved to Yosemite Valley and worked for the park concessionaire.
A Go Fund Me page has been established to raise funds for expected funeral expenses.