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Auburn swimmer, 21, remains missing after American River plunge

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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There was still no trace Monday of a 21-year-old Auburn man who disappeared two days earlier while trying to swim across the frigid, raging American River. Ground searches were halted Sunday but the Placer County Sheriff’s Department helicopter is continuing to check the area downstream from the American River confluence for Noe Antonio Rodriguez. Lt. Jeff Ausnow said that there had been no reports along the river of Rodriguez or a body since he slipped under the water at about 2:30 p.m. Saturday. The Sheriff’s Department reported after he disappeared Saturday that he was attempting to swim across, despite warnings from friends, and never resurfaced after diving in. The Sheriff’s Department Falcon 30 Eurocopter will conduct searches as part of its routine flight schedule but ground searches will not take place. “It’s very difficult to launch any ground search not knowing where he can be,” Ausnow said. “The American River covers a vast area.” Ausnow stopped short of saying Rodriguez had died in his attempt to cross a river that was dangerous both because of its swift flows and near-freezing temperatures. Instead, he would say only that he was missing and “feared dead.” Relative quiet had returned to the confluence area Monday after the roar of search helicopters and sirens Saturday. The only roar was from a river pushing through at a velocity of 3,750 cubic feet per second. The popular recreation spot within the Auburn State Recreation Area near Auburn was welcoming sunbathers, hikers, sightseers and anglers like Lincoln fly fisherman Jake Ritchey. Ritchey said hadn’t heard of the missing swimmer but that he was going to stay away from the water in his quest for river trout. “A lot of guys wade in but it can definitely get treacherous doing that,” Ritchey said. Despite the similarities in names, Ritchey is no relation to Auburn Journal fishing columnist J.D. Richey. Downstream, Jeff Rickenbaker said he’s a frequent swimmer in the summer months but wouldn’t consider going in the water in April. “I’ve never been down here at this time of year,” Rickenbaker said. “In July and August, you can swim across it all day long. Right now, the water is easily three feet higher than it is in the summer.”