Swim warnings line Merced County park after man swept away by Merced River

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Authorities are hoping to deter people from coming to Hagaman Park and going into the dangerous Merced River after a father was swept away in the on Wednesday while trying to save his daughter. (KFSN)

A search continues for a father who was swept away in the Merced River on Wednesday. Deputies are using boats hoping to find 36-year-old Jose Castaneda who jumped in to save his three-year-old daughter.

Authorities are also working to improve park security as the hot weather approaches. Deputies plan to search further down the river where there's a lot of curves and debris.

In the meantime, the Parks and Recreation department has been putting up temporary signs to get ready for the busy and hot weekend ahead. They're hoping they deter people from coming to the park and from going into the dangerous Merced River.

A barricade now blocks the entrance to Hagaman Park just days after a swimmer was swept away by the Merced River. Signs advising visitors to avoid the dangerous waters were scattered throughout the park as the search continues for Castaneda.

A search and dive team spent all of Thursday looking for Castaneda. Divers were also in the water, but deputies say they will not going back in because the current is too dangerous.

Just steps away, Castaneda's wife watched on just hoping for a conclusion.

"I feel so desperate because he's my husband - the father of my children," his wife Fabiola Ochoa said in Spanish. "They're telling me they are suspending the search because the current is too strong. Why? It's too soon."

Deputies planned to continue the search further down the river on Friday and throughout the weekend.

"We will have search and rescue members who will actively be walking the shorelines looking for that subject," said Deputy Daryl Allen with the Merced County Sheriff's Department.

The deputy director of parks and recreation says they're hoping the new signs deter people from the river, and they also hope to fix the more permanent ones.

"Water just receded here in the past couple weeks, so we're still just assessing damage for the parks," Bryan Behn with the department said. "We have lots of trees that are down. You can imagine the debris and obstacles in the river as well."

Besides the rushing current, deputies say another reason the river is dangerous is that its murky water makes it hard for people to see where they are stepping.

Visitors still took the risk until sheriff's deputies came and told them to stay out the river.

"We'll have deputies do that four, five, six times a day," Allen said. "However many times it takes."

The river looks very calm from the surface, but the current is extremely fast underneath and the river is very deep. In the meantime, go to your local city or county swimming pools.

The sheriff's department is working on putting together an ordinance to be able to officially close is for the season.

Related Topics:
newsmissing manmerced countyswimmingMerced County
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