While the scorching heat wave currently bombarding the Western United States is sending some people straight for the closest waterway or body of water, authorities are urging people to use caution.
Last week a 5-year-old boy was standing in the Stanislaus River at McHenry Recreation Area in between Escalon and Ripon when he slipped and disappeared into the murky water.
The boy was not wearing a lifejacket in the knee-deep water, and witnesses described seeing the boy go completely under as the current swept him away from the beach where his family was recreating.
Fortunately for the family the boy’s quick-thinking 14-year-old brother reacted in time to reach him before the river carried him out of sight and was able to successfully pull the boy back towards a beach where a Park Ranger helped both to safety.
The McHenry Recreation Area, which was constructed by the US Army Corps of Engineers as a swimming part for recreation purposes, does include a lifejacket board where those who don’t bring their own can use lifejackets for the day and return them upon getting out of the water.
“Many kids are curious, active, and eager to explore their surroundings, and are attracted to water,” the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office wrote in a post urging people to exercise extreme caution around bodies of water. “However, they don’t understand that water can be dangerous and many are not old enough to do what is needed when in trouble.”
While no drownings have been reported at the park this year, the river has claimed the lives of multiple people over the course of the last decade – from adults to children.
With more than a week of triple-digit heat expected to pound the Northern San Joaquin Valley, local emergency personnel have reported an uptick in the number of people using local waterways to try and beat the heat without having to travel outside of the valley.
Last year a 5-year-old girl drowned in the Stanislaus River upstream near Knight’s Ferry, and earlier this summer a man in 50’s drowned in the Stanislaus River not far from the confluence of the San Joaquin River. The man was not wearing a life jacket, and the point where the two rivers come together creates unique flows that can seem mild on the surface but turbulent beneath.
So far this summer the Ripon Consolidated Fire District – which responds to calls from near McHenry Recreation Area out to where the Stanislaus flows into the San Joaquin River – has responded to so many calls for service that they’re working on a plan to recuperate the expenses incurred when sending out rescue crews.
To contact reporter Jason Campbell email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 209.249.3544.