Mario Benassi, 23, second person to die this year in South Yuba River |

Mario Benassi, 23, second person to die this year in South Yuba River

Mario Benassi was swimming with three friends in the South Yuba River moments before he went under, authorities said.

The 23-year-old Colfax man and his friends took turns going over a waterfall about 300 feet downstream of the Highway 49 bridge, the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office states in a release. The others went before him. Then Benassi took his turn, said Steve Smith, battalion chief with the Grass Valley Fire Department.

“He was the last to go over and he never came up,” Smith said.

Trapped under the water for 15 to 20 minutes, Benassi died Tuesday afternoon. His autopsy is scheduled for today, authorities said.

“It can be common for people to get trapped from the current underneath,” Smith said. “In this case, it forced his leg between two rocks.”

Authorities responded around 3 p.m. to the Highway 49 bridge after someone called 911. At the time of the call Benassi had been underwater for about 10 minutes, Smith said.

“His friends tried to dislodge him from the rocks,” the Sheriff’s Office states. “However, the force of the water proved to be too powerful.”

First-responders arrived at the scene. By then Benassi had been pulled from the water. Authorities tried CPR at the river’s edge, but too much time had passed, he added.

“He had been under the water too long,” Smith said. “We estimated 15 to 20 minutes by the time we got there.”

Benassi’s death is the second at the Highway 49 bridge this year.

Authorities said Christian Cotter, 23, of Elk Grove, died June 5 after he became stuck between rocks. First-responders pulled his body from the river, about a half mile downstream of the Highway 49 bridge.

Smith advised people to remember the river can appear calm on the surface yet have swift currents underneath.

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

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