Near Drowning at Swinging Bridge

July 17, 2014 Posted by: Yosemite Search and Rescue
On the Fourth of July, the parents of a six-year-old girl brought their daughter to the Yosemite Medical Clinic after she nearly drowned in the Merced River. The parents recounted the following story to clinic staff:
Along with her parents and seven-year-old sister, the six-year-old subject was wading in a shallow area of the river, just below Swinging Bridge. The subject’s parents don’t know how it happened, but all of a sudden they saw the subject slipping below the water in what turned out to be a deep section of the river; the last they saw of their daughter was one of her hands reaching skyward before it disappeared. The mother and then the father, both fully clothed, jumped into the water at the spot they last saw their daughter. Neither parent knows how to swim, so they also sank to the bottom of the river. A bystander, watching what had just happened, jumped off the bridge into the river, and with one arm grabbed the six-year-old subject, while with the other arm he pushed the father, who in turn pushed against the mother, up and out of the water. Other bystanders helped the parents out of the water, while the original bystander carried the subject out of the water. The subject never lost consciousness and reported to clinic staff that she remembered the entire episode. The parents estimate she was submerged under the water for 1-2 minutes. After she was rescued, the subject was coughing persistently, but was able to breathe on her own.

People along the calm Merced River at Swinging BridgeAbout an hour after the near-drowning episode, the subject complained of a stomach ache and vomited multiple times; her parents brought her to the clinic for further evaluation. After consulting with Children’s Hospital Central California, the clinicians at the Yosemite Medical Clinic advised the subject’s parents to have her transported by ambulance to Children’s Hospital for more extensive evaluation and overnight observation.

Submersion injuries can present in a variety of ways. The victim can be completely unresponsive and pulseless or can be awake and oriented and seemingly unscathed. It is worth noting that even subjects without any symptoms that suffer near drowning can still decompensate into respiratory failure up to 8 hours after the injury. It is therefore essential that all near-drowning victims receive further medical assessment.

It is imperative for those playing in and near water in Yosemite to understand that drowning incidents occur not only in fast moving white water, but also in shallow, slow, seemingly benign bodies of water as well. This is particularly true for young children and those who do not know how to swim. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), every day in the United States, ten people die from unintentional drowning. Of these ten, two are aged 14 and younger. Children ages 1 to 4 have the highest drowning rates. Research has shown that both lack of swimming ability and lack of close supervision influence drowning risk.

One drowning prevention strategy that is particularly important in Yosemite is close supervision of children when they are in and around rivers and lakes. The CDC recommends that “because drowning occurs quickly and quietly, adults should not be involved in any other distracting activity...while supervising children…” It is worth noting that the adult responsible for the supervision of the child should be comfortable and capable of swimming him or herself. The supervisors of young children should provide “touch supervision,” close enough to touch or reach the child at all times.

Learning to swim is another drowning prevention strategy that is important for both children and adults. If you are planning to vacation in an area with pools, lakes, rivers, or ocean, please consider enrolling you and/or your child in beginner’s swimming lessons. Most local pools, YMCAs, and American Red Cross chapters offer local swimming, first aid, and CPR classes. Visit your city or town’s official website to find out where you can participate in swimming lessons in your area. It could save a life!

For more information on unintentional drownings, please read the Center for Disease Control’s water injuries fact sheet.

14 Comments Comments icon

  1. July 14, 2016 at 07:31

    @Hema, there have been numerous near-drownings and drownings in Yosemite since then, but we're not aware of any others at this location.

  2. July 13, 2016 at 11:06

    Hello, Has there been any more incidents after this at that place.

  3. June 28, 2015 at 03:16

    Stupid parents. I have met so many that say "That will never happen to me or my child!" Will never be able to understand that mindset.

  4. August 17, 2014 at 01:13

    Really?!Why didn't the girl have a life jacket on while in a river full gushing water and she can't swim?!Parent neglect!and BOTH parents couldn't swim but BOTH jump in?The would've been better off shouting franticly that a child is drowning,istead of creating two more lives in need of rescue.i understand the need to want to save your child's life,but if you can't swim,you are not gonna save anyone!It should be a law that kids under a certain age,must wear life jackets on the river.

  5. Gin
    July 25, 2014 at 09:57

    I was sitting by the river in Lower Pines Campground yesterday, when from the opposite shore appears a little girl, no more than 5 years old. No life vest or flotation devices. While attempting to enter the water she fell on a tree stump and slipped, she was able to break her fall.She was very determined to enter the water. The water was deep and cold. I didn't take my eyes off of her,thinking that at any moment she might be in a dangerous predicament and I might have to take some action. After several minutes, who should come strolling towards the river, but those VERY attentive parents.I just don't get it! Too many kids are put in harms way due to "parental stupidity".

  6. July 23, 2014 at 03:26

    @Mary, we don't have a patient update.

  7. July 23, 2014 at 03:21

    So was the child OK after her overnight observation? Did she fully recover?

  8. July 23, 2014 at 01:09

    As time marches on, people will continue to underestimate Mother Nature, and she will continue to claim lives. A real good read is 'Off the Wall: Death in Yosemite' by Michael P. Ghiglieri and Charles R. Farabee. It's a real eye-opener.

  9. July 22, 2014 at 07:19

    If your children can't swim, at least put on some type of floatation device. Every second counts.

  10. July 22, 2014 at 11:10

    The article does not even mention life jackets. You may look "goofy" but a little safer.

  11. July 22, 2014 at 11:06

    So many heroes in this incident! All willing to give their lives even if it meant their own. A HUGE "Thank You" to everyone involved. A terrible tragedy averted by all. Hind site is 20/20, but the reactions of those who were "doers," and not "watchers" is priceless. Thank you all for making me smile today. =)

  12. Joe
    July 21, 2014 at 07:15

    RIGHT ON! to the person who jumped off of the bridge and saved three lives!! Strong work!

  13. July 21, 2014 at 05:26

    Hello, why wasn't at least one of the parents in the water with these girls?

  14. July 19, 2014 at 02:32

    Thank you SAR team for your great work in Yosemite. Swimming lessons should be a must for both parents and children; there's no excuse for not availing kids of this necessary skill, especially before going wading or swimming

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Last updated: July 17, 2014

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