Man missing in Yuba River
A Sacramento man who jumped Saturday afternoon into the south fork of the Yuba River to save his struggling dog was declared a missing person Sunday by the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office.
“We’re not very optimistic for survival,” said Nevada County Sheriff’s Deputy Dave De Vogelaere Sunday afternoon. “It’s very tragic.”
Samuel Newman, 36, was last seen at approximately 3:45 p.m. Saturday more than a mile and a half east of Buttermilk Bend on the south fork of the Yuba River near Bridgeport.
A friend of the man, whose family owns a cabin by the river near Red Tail Hawk Road 2 miles east of Buttermilk Bend, told authorities Newman entered the 48-degree water to rescue his dog which had been chasing a stick.
“Two of his friends saw (Newman) quickly swept away,” De Vogelaere said. Newman’s friends reported he was in good health and knew how to swim, but rescuers said the water at that time was moving at approximately 9 miles per hour and the water was cold enough to drastically drop the body’s core temperature within 30 seconds of entering.
Newman’s friends hiked up to the road and called 911 at 4:04 p.m. Saturday to report the disappearance.
A California Highway Patrol helicopter searched the area immediately and located Newman’s dog alive at 4:39 p.m. on a hillside a quarter of a mile downstream from the cabin, De Vogelaere said, but Newman was no where to be found.
“The river is swollen and it’s extremely cold,” Nevada County Sheriff’s Sgt. Shannan Moon said Saturday night. “We’re hoping he did make it out to the side of the river.”
Searchers with Nevada County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue, California State Parks personnel, Penn Valley Fire District firefighters, North San Juan firefighters and Nevada County Sheriff’s deputies combed a four-mile area from the cabin west past Bridgeport Saturday evening until nightfall.
Rescue workers set up an overnight command post at Buttermilk Bend and then began actively searching again at daybreak.
Two rescuers were also taken by helicopter to a few areas on the river to probe the swiftly moving water Sunday morning, while two teams of four people scoured the sides of the river accessible by foot.
At approximately 1 p.m. Sunday, authorities declared Newman missing and said it was likely he had drowned and was trapped between rocks at the river’s bottom.
“The water’s very hazardous in the area where (Newman) went in,” De Vogelaere said. “Because of the high flow rate and the pressure it creates, he may be trapped at this point.”
He said the water is too hazardous for rescuers to enter, but for the next week, he said, swift water rescuers in a CHP helicopter will sweep the area and probe areas they think Newman’s body could be trapped.
When the flow rate slows down, he said, chances will increase of Newman’s body resurfacing.
“It could be a month before that (flow rate) changes,” he said.
According to information provided by Newman’s friends, Newman was self-employed in Sacramento. He was not married and did not have any children, but he has a brother in Washington State and a sister in Tennessee. They were both notified of Newman’s disappearance Saturday night.
As rescue workers packed up the command post Sunday afternoon, De Vogelaere offered a warning to the public: “Don’t go in the river,” he said. “It’s just not safe. It’s very hazardous right now.”
To contact staff writer Robyn Moormeister, e-mail robynm@ theunion.com or call 477-4236.
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