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Grieving family warns of drowning danger

By Robyn Moormeister

Staff Writer

The family and friends of Zachary Harder – a 22-year-old Roseville man who drowned in the Yuba River in 2006 – gathered at the site of his death Friday morning to honor his memory and warn others of the river’s dangers.



“It helps me to think of him,” Harder’s mother, Chris Harder said, standing on the old Highway 49 bridge, yards away from where her son slipped into the South Fork water and was pulled under by the strong current. “If this saves a life, that’s a few more people who won’t have to go through the agony of losing a life.”

Harder and her husband, Ron Harder, spoke fondly of the youngest of their four sons – a spontaneous, charming soccer enthusiast and salesman with 120 friends programmed into his cellular telephone at the time of his death.




“He brightened a room when he walked into it,” Chris Harder said. “He liked to have fun.”

Nevada County Search and Rescue volunteers and state park rangers also attended the memorial, equipped with a waterproof posterboard alerting potential holiday weekend swimmers to stay out of the water.

The warnings on the poster were illustrated by sheriff’s correctional officer Don Harner. The project was funded by donations from Harder’s family, Nevada County Search and Rescue and the family of search and rescue volunteer Walt Jones.

The poster will be at Twin Bridges this weekend. It will be rotated around throughout the summer to all the popular swimming spots, including Purdon Crossing, Edwards Crossing, Langs Crossing and Bridgeport, Jones said.

While swimming is allowed, officials are asking that people refrain from getting into the water without safety gear until late summer, when the water slows down and warms up, Jones said.

“I’m dismayed when I come out here and I see people in the same spot where Zack slipped,” Jones said.

The water is in the 50-degree to 60-degree range, which is cold enough to induce hypothermia within a few minutes, he said.

Citations possible

California State Park Ranger Jeremy McReynolds said five rangers will be patrolling the state parks land every day this summer to enforce the laws, which include not jumping from high rocks and the old Highway 49 bridge into the water.

“We have the option to cite people,” McReynolds said. “We try to get them to comply first.”

No glass, alcohol or camping is permitted on state park land. Soon, smoking and fires will be banned when it gets hotter this summer, he added.

As people left her son’s memorial Friday, Chris Harder handed out a few copies of an 11-stanza poem she wrote for her youngest boy. One line said, “My journey of grief will go on forever.”

“It really helped me to write it,” Harder said.

To contact Staff Writer Robyn Moormeister, e-mail rmoormeister@theunion.com or call 477-4236.


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