Ranger details South Yuba River rescue | TheUnion.com

Ranger details South Yuba River rescue

The state parks ranger knew the man he had to rescue was close to death.

The unnamed man clung to a rock, or was pushed against it by the South Yuba River. He couldn’t speak and Ranger James Carey figured he was hypothermic.

“It looked like he was right on the edge of life and death,” Carey said.

Two unusual circumstances helped save the man’s life Saturday afternoon. Five state rangers were patrolling the area at the time, and a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers boat traveled upstream to rescue him.

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“It’s pretty rare,” Supervising Ranger Dustin Patterson said. “This is the second time we’ve seen a boat come up this far.”

The man’s condition is was unknown as of press time.

Carey and Patterson were two of the five rangers in the area when they learned about two people in the river. They split into groups. Carey and Ranger Ryan Randar found themselves on the side with the man clinging to a rock.

One of the men in the water escaped on his own, Carey said. That left the other at the bottom of a cliff face the two rangers descended to reach him.

Carey said he reached the man and grabbed his hands. He saw the man was breathing, but couldn’t lift him from the water because of the cliff’s steep angle.

Carey knew at any moment, if the man slipped away, he’d disappear.

About a minute later Randar arrived. Getting in the water, Randar grabbed the man’s feet while Carey pulled his hands. They moved him onto the rock, and Randar began checking the man’s vital signs.

Carey thought they’d need to perform a difficult extraction using a helicopter. Patterson said a helicopter extraction or bringing him up the cliff would prove difficult.

The corps’ boat allowed rangers to begin treating the man as it traveled down river. Rangers then handed him over to medics, Patterson said.

The supervising ranger urged people to avoid getting in the river, citing the snowmelt making it fast and cold.

“It’s all around a very poor idea,” Patterson said. “Right now the river is at unseasonably high levels.”

To contact Staff Writer Alan Riquelmy, email ariquelmy@theunion.com or call 530-477-4239.

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