Two rescued from Yuba River in Washington |

Two rescued from Yuba River in Washington

Firefighters were called out Sunday afternoon to rescue a couple from a rock in the middle of the river below the little town of Washington, after they attempted to make the “float” in inner tubes.

The couple, who reportedly were from Grass Valley, had left from the River Rest Resort early in the afternoon and had not returned, according to dispatch reports.

Water flows at the Highway 49 bridge were recorded at about 2,300 cubic feet per second at about noon Sunday — that compares to an average flow of about 150 to 300 cubic feet per second on an normal day in early June.

Concerned river-goers called for help at just before 4:30 p.m., reporting the pair had been gone almost two hours.

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Washington Fire Capt. Katy Potter said the couple, who are 19 and 20, respectively, had come up to the resort for the day and had “little Walmart-type blow-up” tubes, the kind people purchase for use in a pool.

Witnesses said the man told them he “knew the river” and they were going to float down to a swimming hole, despite attempts to dissuade him.

“They left all their stuff on the beach,” Potter said, adding they ended up going over rapids running so high even kayakers were avoiding them.

After members of the volunteer Washington Fire Department were alerted, Potter called for the swift water rescue team.

“The whole time, I was thinking they were goners,” she admitted.

But fellow firefighter Derek Whittler had gone down the river recently and thought if the couple had made it through the rapids, they might have washed up on “Boulder Island,” an area in the middle of the river studded with rocks.

“He went down on his quad and spotted them on a boulder,” Potter said. “They were surrounded by rapids on both sides, and still had one floatie.”

Whittler made his way 500 feet down the steep hillside and called out to the stranded couple, who were uninjured, and told them to wait for help.

Nevada County Consolidated Fire District’s swift water team responded, along with Nevada County Sheriff’s deputies and Washington and Tahoe Fire, and were able to rescue the two.

The rescuers, outfitted in dry suits and helmets, carried rope lines and Carlson River Boards out to the pair, said Grass Valley Fire Battalion Chief Gary Dunne. The boards, which have two sets of handles, function somewhat like boogie boards.

“It gives them some extra flotation,” Dunne said.

All in all, Potter said, the two were stuck on the boulder for about five hours.

“The girl did say she tried to back out, but it was too late,” Potter said, adding that she was able to grab on to her companion as they got sucked down the rapids.

Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at

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