Closer look at dangerous conditions on the rivers

FRESNO, Calif.

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As snow in the high Sierra continues to melt, water along some parts of the Kings River is getting higher, faster, and colder.

Sergeant Shawn Erwin said, "When you're in water, it zaps your heat 25 times faster than air alone."

Sergeant Shawn Erwin is with the Fresno County Sheriff's Boating Enforcement Unit. He says they were advised to close the Kings River from Goodfellow Bridge to its borders with Tulare and Kings Counties because high temperatures this Fourth of July weekend will increase water flow at Pine Flat Dam from 12-thousand cubic feet per second to more than 16-thousand.

Rudy Gonzales of Sanger said, "If you're not prepared for it, you got a surprise coming. You know what I mean?"

Rudy Gonzales of Sanger brought his family to Avocado Lake Friday, because he says, it's a safe alternative.

Other families we spoke with agree, especially those, like Gonzales, who have previously floated down the Kings River during similar conditions.

Veronica Olazaba of Sanger said, "It's fun, but it is dangerous, like I was actually scared because I was on the rapids and stuff. It was really fast."

Law enforcement says the problem isn't always someone's inability to swim, but rather bad boating equipment. When floating down area rivers, you should always wear a life jacket and use a high quality raft, similar to those used by rafting companies, like Kings River Expeditions.

Julie Butcher with Kings River Expeditions said, "Our boats are very sturdy and set up to do things like that. To take abuse during the day and still be fine."

And while being prepared is essential to navigating the water, law enforcement warns of the hidden dangers, some people are never ready for.

"There are underwater hazards that when normally on other years, they would be above water and you can see them. Now, they're underwater and they can trap you."

Fresno County deputies will be out enforcing the Kings River closure this weekend. If you're caught entering a portion that is closed, you could wind up with a ticket.

It's already been a busy season for water rescue teams around the Valley, and summer is only a few days old.

Fresno city fire crews were conducting patrols on the San Joaquin River. When some swimmers flagged them down and said two people were stuck up stream. Rescue crews found two people on an island with no way of getting back across the swift waters.

On April 18th, emergency crews rescued two women from the San Joaquin River. Their canoe overturned near Lost Lake Park. The women in the canoe hit some low-lying tree branches.

A sailor from Lemoore Naval Air Station is still missing and presumed dead after he went over an overflow dam - or weir - while boating with friends near Laton.

One day later, a teenager and his sister nearly drowned while canoeing along the San Joaquin, just south of the Friant Dam. Their canoe flipped over, sending them into cold water. They were rescued safely.

Last week, Dinuba high school teacher Tyson Motto died in the Kaweah River. Motto was inner- tubing with friends when he got caught in the fast current.

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