Sanger, Calif. — An eight-year-old girl died and her four-year-old brother was missing after they were swept away Sunday in a central California river swollen from rapidly melting mountain snows.
Deputies responded around 2 p.m. following a report of children missing in the Kings River near Pine Flat Dam, according to the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office.
The office said the children, their mother and an adult friend entered the water off the shoreline about a mile down from the dam. They were trying make their way out to a specific rock to climb on when the current carried the kids away.
About an hour later, deputies found the body of the little girl, officials said. They didn’t immediately say how she died.
A search for the 4-year-old continued late Sunday and was to continue overnight and Monday, CBS Fresno, Calif. affiliate KGPE-TV reported.
Further north, authorities were investigating after a body was found Friday in Folsom Lake northeast of Sacramento. And two people remained missing after being swept away by the American River in recent weeks, the Placer County Sheriff’s Office said.
Authorities have warned people to exercise caution along rivers where high water levels and stronger flows are creating dangerous conditions.
“Last winter’s heavy snowpack is melting down into our rivers, and the water is colder (45 degrees), stronger and higher – it will remain that way for at least the next month, possibly longer,” the Placer County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement last week. “Be river-wise, this year IS different.”
Fresno County Sheriff’s Deputy Lt. Brandon Pursell told KGPE Sunday’s tragedy in the Kings River was “100% preventable.”
Pursell says the water in the Kings River is not only icy and cold, it’s flowing at 13,000 Cubic Feet per Second (CFS), making it difficult for even an adult to manage.
The sheriff’s office said both the Kings and San Joaquin Rivers are closed to recreational users and have been since March 14, and violators could be hit with fines of at least $225.
“Numerous closure signs are placed along the waterways informing the public of the importance of staying out of the water,” the office said. “The conditions of our waterways will only become more dangerous heading into summer as snow melts and dams release even more water into the rivers. The water remains cold, in the low 50s, the current is swift and trees serve as dangerous obstacles.
“There is no timetable of when rivers will be reopened for recreational use.”
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