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Accidental slip sends woman down American River

Garden Valley resident’s survival cautionary tale to others
By: Jenifer Gee Journal Staff Writer
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A woman who slipped and fell into the icy American River was rescued via helicopter Monday evening. At about 4:48 p.m., Cal Fire emergency crews received a call that a female, later identified as 44-year-old Jennifer Boche of Garden Valley, was in the water at the American River Confluence in Auburn. A few minutes later the dispatch center received a second report that a witness heard someone screaming for help and the person “appeared exhausted and floating down the river with water at the waist level,” according to Rachel Sierer Wooden, a Cal Fire communication operator. “At the time, they were unable to get out of the water,” Sierer Wooden said. California Highway Patrol’s helicopter was close by and responded to the call as well as state park ranger Scott Liske. Liske said he was the first ground unit on the scene and saw the helicopter as it was hovering above Boche. Liske said he threw a grab bag for Boche to hold on to. The helicopter then landed close to, if not in, the river and a paramedic leaned down to pull Boche out. Liske said initially the helicopter landed off to the side of the river to check on Boche’s condition. “She was so cold she could hardly walk,” Liske said. Liske said Boche could talk and was “scared.” Medical personnel at the scene decided to airlift Boche up to Foresthill Road, which was temporarily shut down, to transport her via ambulance to a hospital. However, Boche signed a waiver refusing transport against medical advice, according to Sierer Wooden. No reason was given. Liske said he later spoke with Boche and her friend, John Craig, 53, of Garden Valley, who was also wet after reportedly jumping in the river to try to grab Boche. Liske said the duo had grabbed lunch at In-N-Out burger and were eating along the middle fork of the American River when Boche stood up and slipped backward. “She fell in the water, she went under and the current took her down river,” Liske said. Liske estimates that Boche traveled about 50 yards downstream until emergency crews were able to save her. He said Boche had tried to grab different objects as she floated but everything was slippery with slime. After emergency crews left, Liske said Boche was inside her car with a blanket over her and slowly warming up. She and Craig said they were going home, Liske said. “She’s very thankful to all the rescue personnel,” Liske said. “She said, ‘I have a lot of letters of thanks to write.’” Liske said Boche is “very, very lucky” to survive and is a cautionary tale as the warm spring weather starts to invite river-goers to the confluence. Liske said especially during the April and May months, they advise people to stay out of the cold and fast river. He said the river will remain that way for the next few months as snow continues to melt. “We don’t advise anyone to really go in the water until the current has slowed way down,” Liske said. “This woman was not planning on going in the water but is a prime example of how an accident can happen.” Liske cautions that anyone near the river wear a personal flotation device because not only the strong current but the cold temperatures can drain any swimmer. He also advised that parents keep a very close eye on children. “This is a story with a great outcome,” Liske said. “She survived and was rescued without injury but often they’re not that way.” The Journal's Jenifer Gee can be reached at jeniferg@goldcountrymedia.com or post a comment.