Girl Survives After Swept Downriver in Sequoia National Park

Rivers can be deadly, even when the water looks calm.
Rivers can be deadly, even when the water looks calm.

Photo by Naoko Otani

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News Release Date: June 5, 2016

Contact: Dana Dierkes, 559-565-3131 (office) and 559-679-2866 (cell)

SEQUOIA AND KINGS CANYON NATIONAL PARKS, CA –On Saturday, June 4, 2016, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks' Dispatch Office received a radio call at 4:16 p.m. from a park employee relaying a report from park visitors of someone in distress in the Kaweah River near Hospital Rock in Sequoia National Park. A swiftwater rescue was initiated at that time. Upon arrival at Hospital Rock, rangers found the victim, a 17-year-old female from San Jose, CA. She had been swimming in the river at Hospital Rock when she was swept 500 feet downstream by strong currents through sections of rapids. She was clinging to a rock when two visitors pulled her to safety. One Parkmedic*and one EMT provided care to the patient. The girl complained of shortness-of-breath and pain where she had hit rocks in the river. The girl was transported by ambulance from Hospital Rock to a local hospital. A total of 10 park staff and a deputy sheriff from the Tulare County Sheriff's Office responded to the swiftwater rescue.

"The person involved in this incident was incredibly fortunate, as others have died in similar scenarios," said Incident Commander Chris Waldschmidt. "Don't let their beauty fool you…rivers can be deadly!" he added.

Drowning is the #1 cause of death at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. Most drownings happen from May through August. Even when temps in the Central Valley are hot, river water is extremely cold, as it comes from melting snow in the mountains. Cold water quickly induces hypothermia--which dramatically reduces your ability to react in an emergency. Many drowning victims have fallen in accidentally on slippery rocks at the river's edge or have been carried away by currents, which are especially strong in spring. Never swim or play by the river alone. Watch children carefully--drowning occurs without a sound. Stop by a park visitor center to inquire about river conditions before going in the water and heed the advice for your safety. More Info

* What is a Parkmedic? Parkmedics are park rangers with specialty medical training. Their training is similar to an Advanced EMT, but with an expanded pharmacological and procedural scope of practice. Parkmedics in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks provide EMS services under protocols written, reviewed and revised by Parkmedic residents at Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno, CA. Parkmedics call for medical direction from the field to the Community Regional Medical Center emergency department, where trained residents provide advice and consultation via radio. 

–NPS – 

Last updated: June 6, 2016

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