Man drowns at American River Confluence

Witnesses, officials say 21-year-old caught in river’s swift current
By: Jenifer Gee Journal Staff Writer
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A 21-year-old Sacramento man drowned near the the American River Confluence Monday afternoon. The man, whose identity is being withheld pending notification of next of kin, was apparently enjoying a day on the river with friends and family when he jumped, was caught in the current and was overcome, according to Jenny Gardemeyer, Auburn State Recreation Area ranger. Gardemeyer, along with crews from American Medical Response, was one of the first on the scene. She said they hiked down a steep cliff side opposite Highway 49 near the American River Confluence where they found a group of men administering CPR to the victim. Gardemeyer said the two men saw a body floating in the river that they described as “lifeless” and rushed in to retrieve it. About the same time, two kayakers came by and also helped bring the man ashore. Gardemeyer said efforts to resuscitate the man continued when the Cal Star helicopter flight nurse arrived. Officials said CPR lasted for about 55 minutes until the flight nurse pronounced the man dead. As emergency personnel were trying to save the man’s life, his brother and friends looked on from a few feet away. The man’s brother was later waiting at the top of the canyon, calling family members. “He tried to cross the river,” said the brother, who declined to give his name but said the victim was his sibling. “The current was too strong and it took him away.” Gardemeyer said the group of men were originally located further up the river than from where the victim’s body was pulled out of the water. It took extra time for crews to pull the victim up out of the steep canyon. Highway 49 was closed in both directions for at least an hour as a Cal Star helicopter landed on the highway bridge. Drivers and their passengers stood outside their cars along the canyon and watched as crews tried to save the victim. Wayne Smith and Sally Gibbins said they were on their way to a Placerville casino when they were stopped. They said they watched for 20 minutes as crews were trying to revive the man. “This is sad to see,” Gibbins said. “It’s really awful.” Gardemeyer cautioned that this not a safe time for people to swim in the river. “With really cold waters and a swift current, it’s really dangerous to go in at this time,” Gardemeyer said. The Journal’s Jenifer Gee can be reached at or post a comment.