Drowning scare on the San Joaquin River

July 18, 2009 10:36:51 PM PDT
A 15-year-old boy is in critical condition after a treacherous swim in the San Joaquin River.A 15-year-old boy is in critical condition tonight after a treacherous swim in the San Joaquin River. He nearly drowned at the Gravel Pit near highway 41 and at least one rescue attempt did not work.

Paramedics were finally able to rescue the boy. This, after his brother first tried, but he too, got into trouble.

Law enforcement says incidents like these are happening more and more, and that people need to be aware. A day on the San Joaquin River almost turned tragic for a Fresno boy Saturday.

The 15-year-old was snorkeling when he started showing signs of distress, and then disappeared underwater.

His 21-year-old brother jumped in to help, but he too started drowning after the 15-year old panicked. "He started flailing about, pulled his brother down under with him. He was able to get out but forcing to leave his brother behind who was floating downstream."

A friend called 9-1-1.

Witnesses say the boy was underwater for several minutes. "They got all the teams out here. They started looking for him, and they found him probably about five minutes later, pulled him out and started doing cpr."

Saturday's near drowning happened in an area where there is very little current. But, Madera County sheriff's deputies say the brothers couldn't swim very well.

Last Saturday, a 13-year old boy from Avenal drowned at Bass Lake. He too, didn't know how to swim.

"No, this is pretty unusual for Madera County. If this child makes it, we're still at three. If he doesn't, we've had four."

Of course with triple digit temperatures, there are more people traveling to Valley Rivers and lakes. Law enforcement says Saturday's near-drowning could have been prevented and that it should serve as a reminder to everyone.

"And in this case because he was snorkeling and he could have sucked in water, which of course he's gonna panic. And that sets up a whole horrible scenario, especially if you're not an avid snorkeler or an avid swimmer. But even for avid swimmers, the bottom line is if you wear a life jacket, if you tire out, you're not going to sink."

I spoke with someone at the Madera County sheriff's office about an hour ago. They say the 15-year-old boy is still in critical condition and is said to be clinging to life. They are not releasing the boy's name at this time.

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