Grass Valley police drone helps in search for man at South Yuba River |

Grass Valley police drone helps in search for man at South Yuba River

Drone pilot Melvon Bird helped in the search of missing Citrus Heights man Alexander Alvarez, 34. Alvarez disappeared while in the South Yuba River.

Officials searching for a man who went missing last weekend in the South Yuba River now have video footage of the water — a resource they say will help in their search.

Alexander Alvarez, 34, of Citrus Heights, disappeared July 13. Rescue crews couldn’t find him, and the Sheriff’s Office scaled back the search. Alvarez remained missing Friday.

That scaled-back search includes the use of drones and helicopters to examine the river — including a DJI Matrice 210 drone owned by the Grass Valley Police Department, sheriff’s Sgt. Ray Kress said.

“The drone allows us to get a very high resolution video of the riverbed itself,” Kress added.

The drone videoed almost a two-mile portion of the South Yuba River, starting at the Highway 49 bridge and moving downstream. The video provides better views than a helicopter, the sergeant said.

Officials now will review the video, basing where they search on it.

“We saw that as an opportunity to utilize technology for a number of things,” Grass Valley Police Chief Alex Gammelgard said of the drone.

Alvarez disappeared when the river was moving at 400 cubic feet per second. Kress said flows had dropped to around 290 cfs by Thursday. Low water levels are essential to finding Alvarez.

“If the water levels continue to drop, we will,” Kress said of redeploying Search and Rescue volunteers.

Two people have died of drowning this year on the South Yuba River. Sean Manchester, 42, of Nevada City, died in February. Dalton Burgos, 23, of Vacaville, died last month.

To contact Staff Writer Alan Riquelmy, email or call 530-477-4239.

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