Placer County rafting death cause months away

Stan Decker, 59, of Rohnert Park died on a North Fork American River run
By: Gus Thomson, Martha Garcia, Gold Country News Services
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AUBURN CA - The cause of death for river rafter Stan Decker won?t be known for several months. Decker, 59, of Rohnert Park, died Saturday on a North Fork American River rafting run after being pitched out of a raft and then later going in a second time while trying to rescue two others with his group, authorities said. While questions are being asked about whether Decker suffered a heart attack in or on the water, Supervising Ranger Scott Liske of the Auburn State Recreation Area, said that indications are also pointing strongly toward a drowning. Some initial reports suggested Decker may have suffered a heart attack. Liske said that, despite conflicting reports, it has been determined from witnesses that Decker disappeared into the churning water and was subsequently found and taken out facedown from the river near Chamberlain Falls. An autopsy on Decker was completed Monday, Placer County Sheriff?s Office spokeswoman Dena Erwin said. But the cause of death won?t be released until all forensic testing, including blood toxicology tests, are received, she said. Test results take about 14 weeks, Erwin said. Chris Paulus, Cal Fire battalion chief, was on the scene during the afternoon rescue, about a mile downstream from the Iowa Hill Bridge take-in. Paulus said the accounts he received indicated Decker was thrown out of the raft as it hit rapids but got back into the craft and tried to help two others who had also been pitched out. ?They hit another set of rapids and he was thrown out again,? Paulus said. ?He came to the surface twice, they lost sight of him, and saw that bystanders onshore had pulled him out.? Because of high water and steep cliffs, the California Highway Patrol helicopter was used to provide medical help. Decker was put on a raft and a medic was lowered down from the copter at a safe point downstream, Paulus said. But he was soon afterward pronounced dead at the scene. ?The victim had a body wet suit and personal flotation device (life vest),? Paulus said. ?But the river still took him. The water is fast, the water is cold. It?s deceptively inviting.? Paulus said that people who don?t know how to swim shouldn?t even go near the water and if even strong swimmers are in it, they should have a personal flotation device.