Safety officials caution holiday weekend river visitors
July 6, 2013
By noon on Independence Day, the river swimming holes below and around the old and newer Highway 49 bridge already had several hundred refugees from the triple-digit temperatures.
"That's about average for this kind of day," said Don Schmidt, a supervising ranger for the California State Parks.
"The peak is around 4-5 (p.m.), Schmidt said.
Rangers, fire and rescue personnel, park volunteers and South Yuba River Citizens League river ambassadors are paying special attention to swimmers this holiday weekend, two weeks after a 12-year-old Nevada City boy, Keegan Carovich, drowned not far from the Highway 49 bridge.
“You can be in a calm place at one moment and then in a current the next, and small children are at risk.”
— Capt. Patrick Sullivan,
Nevada County Consolidated District
Locals, who frequent that portion of the river are aware of the tragedy, but Schmidt said he is cautioning the tourists — who tend to make up the majority of swimmers directly below the bridge — of the boy's tragic death.
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"Locals who know the river, aren't immune," Schmidt said. "Even when the river looks peaceful, it can be deadly dangerous."
For Schmidt, one of the first things he asks people is whether they have been to the Yuba River before, or, even swam in any river before. He said this tells rangers a lot on how to caution them.
"The river is very dynamic," said Capt. Patrick Sullivan with Nevada County Consolidated Fire District. "You can be in a calm place at one moment and then in a current the next, and small children are at risk."
Sullivan's crew visited the river Thursday as a form of public outreach to provide caution and to train his firefighters about the strenuous nature of river rescues.
Both Sullivan and Schmidt's first tip is to have children wear floating life jackets.
"Water wings do nothing," Schmidt said about the inflatable devices designed to be worn around children's biceps.
Whereas river issues in the spring revolve around cold water and fast currents, this weekend Sullivan and his crew are cautioning river visitors about slippery rocks.
Schmidt also asks visitors to be aware of their surroundings and keep on eye on children, even if they are other people's kids.
Being aware also includes having an idea of what to do in an emergency, Sullivan said.
"People assume their cell phones will work everywhere," he said. "Communication is a huge issue and people from outside of the area don't really realize they can't actually call 911 down there (at most river swimming holes)."
With all the various agencies patrolling the river, from public safety officials to volunteers, Schmidt said that Nevada County's rivers have a very low rate of incidents, making them remarkably safe thanks to all those eyes and ears.
"We are very fortunate to have quick fire and medical response in all these areas," he said. "It isn't very often that people aren't taken care of in a timely fashion."
Both officials acknowledge that no matter how careful everyone is, accidents are inevitable.
"We will always have river issues, but if people can show extra care and concern, that will be helpful," Sullivan said.
To contact Staff Writer Christopher Rosacker, email email@example.com or call 530-477-4236.