Daring rescue on the Merced River near Snelling


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The rescues began Thursday night in Merced County near the town of Snelling, not far from Henderson Park. The last person was pulled out of the water early Friday morning.

You can't get a clearer warning to stay out of the water than this! The water in the Merced River is so strong, so swift, that even men with years of rescue training had a lot of trouble. Only ABC30's cameras caught the action when their rescue boats flipped over into the raging river.

Seven people -- three rafters and four rescuers -- spent hours clinging to trees. The original plan was to get to shore, but their boat, stuck in the brush by the swift current. The boat started taking on water and they struggled against the current. Some got swept downstream.

The teams from Merced and Mariposa County Sheriff's Offices jumped back into action -- hustling to save their own and the three rafters in trouble. One by one.

Just after midnight, just when weary rescuers thought they were almost done, there was more trouble. Mariposa County Deputy Tim Rumfelt was trying to pick up the last person his raft became stuck and took on water. The raft flipped and Rumfelt went downstream and caught onto a rope that those on shore threw to him. He was pulled out safely.

Rescuers had to rest a bit and send food and water to the last person who was stuck, Merced County Deputy Jason Cope. Finally, just around 1:30 a.m., rescuers pulled Deputy Cope out of the rushing river on a body board.

Amazingly, these weren't the only rescues on the same part of the Merced River. Earlier Thursday evening, around 5:30, a man and woman were rescued rafting near Henderson Park.

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