Twenty-five-year-old Minh Tu Quang Nguyen of Westminster and 22-year-old Scott Neacato of Los Angeles were on a graduation camping trip when they attempted to cross a river on a two-man raft tied to a line. According to a county sheriff's report, turbulence flipped the vessel, sweeping both men down the river, just 200 yards above aggressive Class IV and Class V rapids. Neither of them were wearing life jackets, and family and friends told officials that Neacato does not know how to swim.
A group of 11 people were camping in the area of Ant Canyon on June 13 when they tied a line across the river and tied it to a small two-man raft, according to a statement released by the Tulare County Sheriff's Department. Last winter's strong snowfall and warmer temperatures have increased the strength of the Kern River this year, officials said. Minh Tu Quang Nguyen, 25, of Westminster and Scott Neacato, 22, of Los Angeles, were in the raft trying to reach the north shore."It appears the raft was pulled into a boil (turbulence) and subsequently was partially submerged and capsized due to the extreme current," the statement read.
Nguyen and Neacata were swept away by the river, and neither has been located since, officials said. Resident deputies have continued to search the area in search of the two men, said Sgt. Chris Douglas of the Tulare County Sheriff's Department. Friends called deputies at about 6:40 p.m. after the incident took place, and told authorities Neacato did not know how to swim. Neither one of the men was wearing a life jacket.
Last winter's strong snowfall and warmer temperatures have increased the strength of the Kern River this year, officials said.The water temperature is about 45 degrees, according to the Tulare sheriff's department.Deputies and the U.S. Forest Service conducted a search after the two men were reported missing. The next day, officials scoured the river banks.The search has been scaled back, but it is expected to continue until both men are found.Six people have been killed in the Kern River over the past year, bringing the total fatalities in the river since 1968 to 257, according to the Bakersfield Californian newspaper."I attribute (the deaths) to people not being aware of the strength of the current, among other things," Kern County sheriff's Sgt. Mark Baldwin told the Californian. "The river might seem serene, but you don't know what's downstream. You could have boulders, rapids or a decline in elevation."
Baldwin said there was "about a fifty-fifty" ratio between local residents and out-of-towners who drown in the river. He also warned swimmers this year that currents could be unusually strong this year due to increased snowmelt."The river is a natural resource; you have to respect it," Baldwin said. "Everyone who goes into the river needs to know their limitations."If swimmers do find themselves swept away by the river's current, Baldwin recommends they adopt a "lounge chair" position, wherein they relax and put their feet up."You don't want your feet dragging along the bottom," Baldwin said. When a swept-away swimmer sees a suitable river bank, Baldwin said, the swimmer should point his or her head upstream and start swimming toward the bank.
Norwalk resident missing in river mishap.
22 year old former Norwalk High School grad goes missing after being swept away in Kern River along with friend.
By Randy Economy
Los Cerritos Community News
Scott Neacato, a recent graduate of UCLA and former standout student and graduate of Norwalk High School has gone missing while river rafting in the Kern River . The popular 22 year-old native of Norwalk was visiting the river with friends during a weekend celebration on June 13 when he and a companion went missing while rafting in the choppy and aggressive rapids. Also missing with Neacato is his friend Minh Tu Nquyen, 24 from nearby Westminster.
The pair was last seen in the river near Ant Canyon around 6:30 p.m. last Monday, June 13. The popular camping site is located about 10 miles north of Kernville, in Tulare County , it is a very popular location for college and university students to visit during spring and summer breaks. According to friends, Neacato had just graduated from UCLA with a Bachelors of Arts Degree in Sociology two days prior to going missing.Due to the recent rains and huge snow pack this past winter in the Sierra Nevada’s, the Kern River is at its highest and most power level in recent memory.
According to interviews conducted by the LCCN , Neacato was camping with about a dozen friends when they tied a rope across the river and tied a raft to the rope. The river appeared to be calm, and both Neacato and Nguyen were lying on the raft, when it broke away and surged caught into the rapids. The raft then flipped over, tossing both into the wild flow of gushing water. The LCCN also learned that according to friends of the two, neither Neacato nor Nguyen was wearing life vests. Jenny Tran, a friend of both missing men, said the two “did know how to float” and that she remains hopeful that they will be found alive.
The area where Nguyen and Neacato entered the river is considered by many locals to be “deceptively calm.” But, just down river some of the biggest rapids are formed that are listed in the category of “Class IV” and “Class V,” which ranks at the top of the danger scale for whitewater rafting experts. Drugs or alcohol do not appear to have played any role in this case.According to local officials in Kern County , the river was reportedly flowing at approximately 4,500 cubic feet per second at the time the two were last seen. Experienced swift water kayakers, who were in the area at the time the two went missing, helped to volunteer in the search efforts. By 8:30 p.m., just two hours after the two went missing the search was called off due to darkness. Their empty inflatable raft was spotted in the river according to a report in the Kern Valley Sun Newspaper.
Payush Chatta, 20, and a resident of Norwalk who has known Neacato for the past seven years. He joined nearly 20 friends and family members in trying to locate both men this past week in the Kern County area. “We organized search teams and covered a five mile area, looking under rocks in heavy brush along the riverbank, all the way down to Lake Isabella, with no luck,” Chatta said. Dina Wilson, Principal at Norwalk High School said Neacato was one of the top students when he graduated from Norwalk High School in the Class of 2007. “Scott was on top of the world when he attended Norwalk High School,” Wilson said. “Everyone loves Scott, and we cannot give up till he is located,” she added.
UPDATE, JUNE 27, 2011
The body of Minh Tu Quang Nguyen was recovered by a swiftwater rescue team on Saturday afternoon. The Westminster man, who simply went by "Tu," was pinned to a tree along the upper Kern River, about five to six miles downstream from the point where his raft flipped on June 13. His brothers and friends, who have been searching the area for more than a week, witnessed the recovery. Rescuers discovered his body while looking for another missing person, a 53-year-old man from Palmdale, who was also found deceased that day. Deputies are still searching for Scott Neacato of Los Angeles, who was swept into the river with Nguyen. OC's G.I. Joe Search &Rescue is once again planning to assist with the search this Saturday.
ORIGINAL POST, JUNE 23, 2011
Tulare County officials, along with volunteer rescuers, are searching for two young men who fell into Central California's Kern River on June 13. Twenty-five-year-old Minh Tu Quang Nguyen of Westminster and 22-year-old Scott Neacato of Los Angeles were on a graduation camping trip when they attempted to cross a river on a two-man raft tied to a line. According to a county sheriff's report, turbulence flipped the vessel, sweeping both men down the river, just 200 yards above aggressive Class IV and Class V rapids. Neither of them were wearing life jackets, and family and friends told officials that Neacato does not know how to swim. Friends called 911 at about 6:40 p.m. after the incident occurred, and deputies and the U.S. Forest Service searched the scene until the sun went down, resuming the next morning with helicopters and a diving rescue team.