At 7:10 pm Tuesday, the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office received an emergency phone call from a person on the shore of the Kings River who said they heard people yelling for help. This was occurring just south of Laton Kingston Park. The caller saw four people in a raft that was stuck in the trees. The river is very cold and the current is moving very fast right now. Firefighters and deputies on patrol were dispatched to the area. For the sake of time, the Sheriff’s Office EAGLE One helicopter also responded. The area the rafters were stuck was not easily accessible by vehicles, so the helicopter was the best option to conduct a rescue.

At 7:22 pm, Pilot Mike Sill and his Tactical Flight Officer Greg Villanueva worked together to lower a rope with a cinch collar attached to it. The first person placed the collar around their body and was safely lifted to shore. The same process was done for the second person. The third person did a bear hug of the five year old girl on the raft, then put the collar around them so that they could be lifted to safety as well. This all happened as the raft popped and was quickly deflating. It’s important to note this was not a river grade floatation device. It was made of thinner material that would generally only be used in a swimming pool.

The group of rafters was comprised of a 36 year old, 14 year old, 13 year old and five year old. They were stuck on the water for approximately an hour. Everyone was saved in less than 10 minutes. They went to a local hospital for medical evaluation / treatment.

The Sheriff's Office advises people not to go on our rivers right now. The water is cold and moving fast due to water being released from reservoirs, which creates dangerous conditions for people. The waterways are also not being actively patrolled by our Boating Unit. That does not begin until Memorial Day weekend. If people are going to be near the water, they should always wear life jackets.

Contact Information

Tony Botti
Public Information Officer
(559) 600-8137
(559) 977-0379
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