Searchers have yet to find a 21-year-old swimmer who went missing in the Stanislaus River near the Highway 99 overcrossing.
Juan Carlos Acatitlan, a Lodi farm worker, was spending the afternoon in the water with his brother Jose and another male friend just to cool off in the warm weekend temperatures when he disappeared in the river as the trio were swimming back and forth beneath the bike bridge and railroad trestle, according to the brother. He was last seen Sunday at 6 p.m.
Authorities suspended their search due to darkness Monday for the second consecutive day. Firefighters used a rescue boat covering a mile and half downstream along with Ripon Police VIPS volunteers that conducted foot patrols along the river banks. A drone was also used above the waterway in search of a body.
The river was a swift 1,500 cubic feet a second and 58 degrees when the trio jumped from its banks and swam across some 70 feet to the bank on the other side in the riparian forested area where one side is in Stanislaus County and the other in San Joaquin County.
Ripon Fire Chief Dennis Bitters said his boat crew searched the river for a mile and a half downstream on Sunday evening until it became too dark to be safe for his firefighters. Family members and friends were on the scene early Monday morning in hopes of finding a clue to the man’s whereabouts. The police were there too with their four-wheelers.
Chief Bitters put out a warning to the public to be cautious of the dangers of the river that has claimed many lives during past years with people wanting to cool themselves without taking into account the cold temperatures from snow melt and extreme water flows of the river.
Stanislaus County firefighters from the Salida station responded to the possible drowning call Sunday afternoon with a “hasty search” walking their side of the river looking for signs of the swimmer.
A friend of the swimmer, Coaceyul Grevero, said Acatitlan had been working in the grape vineyards in rural Lodi as a farm worker pruning the old growth on vines and tying up the new growth,
In similar incidents in the past, where swimmers were lost in the river, bodies have often been found snagged in underwater buildups of logs and tree limbs that snagged them down in the river bottom and kept them from surfacing. The runoff of the melting snow in the mountains has always made recovery efforts difficult for firefighters in the spring and early summer.
Bitters said the San Joaquin County boat rescue crew plans to return today to continue looking for the swimmer’s body with a smaller boat that will allow them to search smaller areas on the river’s banks hoping to bring closure for the family members who mourned their loss sitting along the river Monday.
As the family was about to leave for home Monday afternoon, Ripon Police Lt. Danny Sauer recognized that the man’s brother Jose had not eaten all day and he was told that he was a diabetic. Sauer walked back up to the parking lot where he had left his unmarked car and drove to a fast food restaurant and brought back a hamburger and orange juice for the man.
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