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Accident Description

Deadly holiday weekend

on roaring Kern River: 

By Rong-Gong Lin

A 40-year-old man died after falling into the river from a boat managed by a commercial rafting company that was navigating the Cable Run, which is classified as a Class IV rapid, according to the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department. Class IV rapids are intense and turbulent, and can feature large, unavoidable waves that can require fast maneuvers.

The man was unresponsive when he was pulled out of the river north of Kernville, the Sheriff’s Department said in a statement. Rescuers performed CPR for about 20 minutes; he was rushed to Kern Valley Hospital where he was pronounced dead. The man was wearing a life jacket.

Water temperatures were in the mid-40s, said Tulare County Sheriff’s Lt. Kevin Kemmerling.


Falling into the river -

On Saturday, a man in his 40s died after falling into the river from a raft operated by Sierra South, a local outfitter, Kemmerling said. The raft was navigating the Cable Run, a Class IV rapid that is intense and turbulent.

The accident occurred about five miles north of Kernville, where the river water was 40 degrees, Kemmerling said. Rescuers performed CPR for about 20 minutes; he was rushed to Kern Valley Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Tom Moore, president of Sierra South, said the man was part of a church group and was a last-minute substitute.

He was wearing a wetsuit and life jacket, Moore said. The man fell backward out of the inflatable raft when it was hit by a wave, he added.

The man was able to grab on to a kayak that had been tailing the raft, and after grabbing hold of a paddle he was pulled back onto the raft, Moore said. He was following commands and was responsive, but he collapsed shortly after he was pulled back into the boat, Moore said.

Moore said a relative of the victim told him that the coroner suspects a heart attack. The coroner was unreachable Monday night.

“We’re so sorry and so sad for him and his family,” Moore said. “In 32 years of running, we’ve never had an accident like that.”


UPDATE (May 30, 2017 2:32 p.m.): The man who died at the hospital after falling out of a boat in Cables Rapid north of Kern County has been identified as 44-year-old Shane Joseph Ornelas.

The Tulare County Sheriff's Department Swiftwater Dive Rescue Team responded to a call for help from a commercial rafting company Saturday that had subjects fall from the boat while navigating Cables Rapid up river from Camp 3 on the Kern River. That is just north of the Kern County line. 

One person was recovered and became unresponsive. CPR was started and the 40 year old man was later taken to Kern Valley Hospital where he was pronounced dead. 

The coroner will release the victims identity and cause of death at a later time. 

In a press release, the Tulare County Sheriff's Department Swiftwater Dive Rescue Team reminded those out near the river to be careful this weekend. 

"Though these factors did not contribute to today’s incidents, The Tulare County Sheriff's Department wishes to remind recreationists to use safety devices such as Personal Flotation Devices and keep children under adult supervision, and don't enter the water when consuming alcoholic beverages."