Body recovered in Winton Park drowning

October 7, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
The Fresno County coroner has confirmed the identity of a 19-year-old man divers pulled from the Winton Park swimming hole Monday. The man has been identified as Henry Serrato of Chowchilla. Family and friends say Serrato went under water around 5 p.m. Sunday near Piedra and Alwood in Fresno County.

Divers with the Fresno County Sheriff's Search and Recovery team focused their efforts at Winton Park, an area just downstream from where the 19-year-old was last seen swimming with his brother and friend. A team of three worked their way down the riverbank after calling off the search Sunday on account of the dangerous conditions.

"We pulled the divers out at about 10 o'clock last night for safety reasons. We started at about 9 o'clock this morning and did a research of the grid back and forth," Fresno County Sheriff's Lt. Greg Gularte said.

Visibility was low and the water cold. As the current kicked up sediment crews struggled to stay in place in the fast-moving water.

"It seems calm on the edges, but it's actually very swift and there are several drop-offs," Lt. Gularte said. "Yeah, on river right, which is this side, you can't see anything. It's dark, there's a bunch of boulders. There's some moss so they had to do everything by touch, feel."

After about an hour of combing the river bottom, "On our seventh pass, we found someone that matched the subject's description, what he was wearing and tattoos,"

Divers discovered the body in about 15 feet of water, not too far from where the man went under.

"He's not a very strong swimmer, neither was his partner that he was with and unfortunately drowned," Lt. Gularte said.

Family and friends were devastated as divers recovered the body from the water.

"Reporting to the sheriff's department was a bit delayed because of the cell reception. The family actually had to drive out past the foothills to get cell reception and then call us," Lt. Gularte said.

The Fresno County Sheriff's Department tells me they've recovered three drowning victims so far this year. A relatively low number considering they averaged about 25 rescues a week during boating season on this river alone.


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