Only on Action News: Family of woman found dead in Fresno canal speaks

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- When it comes to summer heat in the Valley, it's not a matter of if, but when swift water rescue teams will be called to service.

Fresno Fire Public Information Officer Shane Brown says in addition to fire calls, the water team is called for search and rescue efforts 30-50 times per year.

"Seconds are critical. It's literally life and death within a matter of moments," he said.

With roughly 700 miles of canals throughout the city, those calls aren't limited to recreational waterways.

"This water is moving fast, it's swift, it's cold, there's debris coming down that puts the divers in jeopardy," he added.

Now the department is expanding its training, preparing firefighters and engineers to support water rescue efforts.

Brown says, "Almost always, they're on scene before the water rescue team is going to arrive."

Engineer Michael McIntyre says he's provided support on several water rescues and recoveries but is now able to aid beyond communicating with dive teams.

McIntyre says, "I'm not on the water team but my station is right by the San Joaquin river, so if I'm actually on a call out there and we need something on the money, now, I feel like I'm better equipped."

Though planned months in advance, the training comes just two days after crews recovered the body of 38-year-old Fannie Chindapheth in the canal at Ashlan and West, six miles from where she fell in at McKinley and Millbrook.

Search and rescue teams spent 6 days working with different agencies, including the Fresno Irrigation District, to locate her body, but it was a passerby who eventually spotted her in the water.

"Everyone was hoping and praying it wasn't her," says Fannie's sister-in-law, Keo Nameexai. "I was hoping that the gentleman that was the first one that saw her was losing it, maybe not in the right state of mind."

Nameexai says they checked with friends, even local hospitals up until the moment they got the devastating news.

Now, family members are working to give the mother of five a proper burial, creating a GoFundMe for funeral services.

"It's been tough for everybody. It's been tough for her kids," said Keo. "Fannie's Mom is probably hurting the very most."
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