AUBURN -- A Reno man who was swept down the upper Yuba River can't believe he's still alive -- and he's not alone. The team that rescued him says he was a few feet from certain death.
This Emerald Pools on the Yuba River are a popular hiking destination near Highway 20 and Emigrant Gap. This is where self-described adventurer Kalani Tuiono and his girlfriend went swimming.
"It was my first time there, it was beautiful," Tuiono said.
From his Reno home he said he is a strong swimmer and he tried to swim across a calm spot in the river, but he was pulled downstream by a powerful undertow.
He was pulled under and through numerous rapids downstream for what the CHP says was a mile. It was a rough ride and Tuiono says he was disoriented.
After being sucked underneath the white water of turbulent river, amazingly he managed to grab onto the last boulder before a 40-foot waterfall.
"I squeezed that rock as hard as I could, I didn’t have the strength to get up on the rock," Tuiono said.
When he finally did, he found himself stranded.
"There was no way off of that rock, the cliff wall next to me, the closest spot where I could get off the river was just a sheer cliff," Tuiono said.
After picking up a Truckee Fire rescuer, the CHP was finally able to pull Tuiono from his precarious perch over two hours later.
Tuiono knows how lucky he was and thanks the CHP, Truckee Fire and Cal Fire crews for coordinating a rescue effort, which included Tuiono’s girlfriend, who got stuck on a cliff trying to reach him.
He is glad to relay a message after his ordeal.
"Not to get in the water at all and tell everyone you love about these rivers and how dangerous they are because they really are no joke," he said.
This close call is another example of how dangerous these rivers can be.