Citrus Heights man escapes drowning

By: Gloria Young, Journal Staff Writer
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A Citrus Heights man who jumped into the American?River to cool off was carried downstream in the cold, swift current, but eventually reached shore safely Saturday. “He was very, very lucky,” said Scott Liske, California State Parks supervising ranger assigned to the Auburn?State Recreation Area. Mike Harrison, age 26, refused medical evaluation once he was back on shore, Liske said. The incident happened at about 2 p.m. in the confluence area near the North Fork Bridge, just below Auburn. “He had no shirt on, no personal flotation device, no cold water clothing or equipment,” Liske said. “He was basically dressed for a warm day at the river. The current surprised him and it just took him downstream. “He grabbed on to a rock but couldn’t hang on and then he went for a long ride – under the Highway 49 bridge and eventually under the No Hands Bridge. He said he paddled like crazy and was able to get out on the left side of the river below No Hands.” Emergency response included a California Highway?Patrol helicopter as well as CALSTAR and a Placer County Sheriff’s Department helicopter, according to Duty Officer Craig McArdle with the Auburn Fire Department, which also responded to the scene along with Cal Fire. “All three (helicopters) were in the area, which seldom happens,” McArdle said. Liske estimates Harrison was in the water about 10 minutes. “There were a number of witnesses who reported seeing him bobbing up and down in the water and he was basically being swept by the current,” Liske said. “Nothing he was doing to help himself (was working) at that point.?He was being taken by the river and the current.” Witnesses said he was screaming as the rushing water took him downstream, according to official reports. The close call illustrates just how dangerous the rivers are right now, Liske said. “People should stay out of them unless they are properly equipped and trained in whitewater,” he said. “The folks going rafting on commercial guided trips, they’re getting put into jackets to keep cold water off them and they’re wearing whitewater personal flotation devices. This guy didn’t have anything like that.”