Boy survives tumble from rocks, leg entrapment in South Yuba River
A boy visiting the South Yuba River from Yuba City got doubly lucky after slipping from the rocks and plunging into the river.
The 12 year old escaped serious injury Monday afternoon after falling 6 to 8 feet, but his leg got trapped under a rock, creating what could have become a fatal drowning scenario.
“If the water had been 4 to 6 inches higher, we would have had a different outcome,” said Nevada City Consolidated Fire Deputy Chief Jerry Funk. “We’ve lost a couple of people (that way) — there was one guy whose head was just inches below the surface and he couldn’t get his leg free.”
Consolidated firefighters, along with firefighters from Nevada City and North San Juan, had responded around 1:40 p.m. to reports of a person with leg entrapment near the old Highway 49 bridge.
“He was accompanied by his father and some other adults,” Funk said. “They were able to hold him up to keep his head just above the surface, but they were unable to free him. His leg was trapped to knee level — a good portion of his leg was wedged under the rock.”
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Funk noted it likely took time before someone was able to drive out of the canyon and get cell phone reception to call for help, adding it takes a “solid” 12 to 15 minutes for a crew to respond from Station 84, plus the time needed to outfit the Swift Water Rescue Team with dry suits.
“The odds are good that young man was stuck in the water for a while,” Funk said.
“We put three swimmers in the water,” he said. “They were able to get a life jacket on him to help keep him afloat.”
But initial attempts to free the boy’s leg proved unsuccessful, Funk said, adding, “Ultimately they had to pull his leg out with brute force — there just were not a lot of options.”
The boy was then floated downstream to a place where he could be transferred to a Stokes litter and carried up to the road, Funk said. He was transported to a hospital and reportedly treated and released with no substantial injuries.
Back in July, river safety advocate Katrina Schneider warned of the dangers of entrapment as well the possibility of people slipping on rocks near the river, noting a film formed from sediment has made them more slippery this year. People moving across the rocks should have three points of contact — their two legs and a hand — as they traverse the landscape. Schneider said.
Last year, two men — Christian Cotter and Mario Benassi — died after becoming entrapped while going through rapids feet-first just downstream of the Highway 49 bridge. Three people have drowned this year on the South Yuba River. Sean Manchester, 42, of Nevada City, died in a kayaking accident in February. Dalton Burgos, 23, of Vacaville, died in late June at Emerald Pools when the current caught him and swept him away. On July 13, Alexander Alvarez, 34, of Citrus Heights, drowned after the river caught him between the old and new Highway 49 bridges.
To contact Staff Writer Liz Kellar, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4236.
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