Search Called Off for Missing Rocklin Man Swept Away in South Fork of American River

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EL DORADO COUNTY — El Dorado County search and rescue teams have abandoned the search for a Rocklin man believed to have drowned along the South Fork of the American River near Chili Bar River Park.

The South Fork of the river was running high and fast at the American River Conservancy’s Chili Bar River Park on Monday.

It’s easy to imagine the urgency when witnesses saw 28-year-old Mateo Rios in distress floating past them Saturday morning. They hailed park attendant Ryan Crofoot.

“I immediately ran up and called the 911 dispatcher,” Crofoot told FOX40.

He ran to the bank of the river in case his first aid skills were needed.

“When I did arrive down below he was, unfortunately, he was already gone,” Crofoot said.

That didn’t stop El Dorado County sheriff’s rescue teams from mounting an all-out search for Rios. Sometimes people who are swept away can grab onto a bush, a tree or a rock.

But a boat crew, dive team, CHP helicopter and a drone team came up empty.

“The search went all throughout the day and then it continued the following day with no luck in finding him,” said El Dorado County Sheriff’s Sgt. Anthony Prencipe.

Witnesses say Rios was shirtless and not wearing a life jacket.

“If you don’t have a jacket on you have no chance,” said river guide Jeffrey Browf.

Browf has been a guide on the South Fork for 25 years. He said the cold water brings on hypothermia quickly and swimmers can lose control of their muscles.

Not only is the water swift and cold, but there are also obstacles on the river known for its white water rapids.

“You’re going to smack into that rock, especially if you have no floatation device,” Browf told FOX40.

Browf said running the river on a guided raft can be exciting because of all the safety gear used. It’s the same kind of gear rescue teams use when practicing on the water.

The suspension of the search means only one thing, Browf explained.

“If they haven’t found him yet, they’re going to find him when the water goes way down or if he pops up downriver somewhere,” Browf said.

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