Loved ones hold out hope in search for missing hiker swept away in San Joaquin River

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Clinging to their faith, family and friends of 18-year-old Jared Gardner are desperately searching for their loved one.

It was 4 p.m. Saturday when search and rescue teams were called to the San Joaquin River Gorge after reports of a man being swept away.

Gardner, his brother, and friends from church had spent the day hiking there when they stopped to rest on the rocks along the river.

The trip was an end of the school year celebration. Jared was just a week away from graduation.

Jared's Uncle, John Foster says, "He and his brother do enjoy the outdoors. They are both strong swimmers so it wasn't anything reckless they weren't playing in the water."

A Kerckhoff Dam release sent water rushing down the San Joaquin River.

Survivor Jianna Vang says it took less than a minute for the water to consume their rest area.

Five of them were able to make it to a higher embankment, but Jianna says she and Jared were pulled roughly 200 feet downstream, "It was so fast and it came out of nowhere and the waves were just pushing us between the rocks."

Vang says it is thanks to Jared her best friend Bailey made it out of the water alive. He was able to push her to shore from the water, "I think the last thing he did was save her and the last time I saw him was in the water in front of me as we both were going down the river."

According to the Fresno County Sheriff's Office PG&E has stopped the flow from Kerckhoff to aid search teams. Their efforts will resume at 7 a.m. on Monday.
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