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Last Thursday night first responders were called out to the Auburn State Recreation Area to the American River near the Confluence for a river rescue.
At approximately 8:15pm, 30 year old Josh Neeley of Auburn, was swimming in the river when he apparently went under water and did not resurface.
A witness said that Neeley was pulled from the river by a rescue diver just before the Highway 49 crossing on the El Dorado County side. First responders worked quickly to perform CPR on the victim but they were unable to revive him. The witness said that Neeley was pale and gaunt, and looked lifeless after he was pulled ashore.
Life jackets are available for lone on a first-come, first-serve basis throughout the state park. It was reported by the El Dorado County Coroners Office that Neeley was not wearing one at the time he was pulled to shore.
According to Scott Liske, swimmers assume the river is safer because the water level is low due to this year’s drought, but it can be just as much of a threat with the cold water and undercurrent. Liske said that the water levels increase in the afternoon and into the night because of the release of water from the upstream dams. The park ranger also said that over all, river rescues are down from last year.
In addition to Neeley’s death, one person drowned in the river this year. On June 7th, 15-year-old swimmer, Ronald Stewart of Garden Valley drowned at the American River Middle Fork at Cherokee Bar off Sliger Mine Road. The sheriff’s office did not say if this victim was wearing a life vest.