Divers recover body of man who drowned in American River while rafting with large group

The body of a man who drowned while rafting with a large party on the American River has been recovered, firefighters announced Sunday morning.

Firefighters were called around 11:30 a.m. Saturday to the river at Clay Banks in Rancho Cordova for an adult male who had gone missing as a large party floated toward Rossmoor Bar, according to Battalion Chief Parker Wilbourn, a spokesman for the Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District.

Minutes later, a Metro Fire helicopter and search party were deployed to scan the river looking for the man, who was not wearing a life jacket when he was swept underwater, Wilbourn said.

“The operation carries a great deal of risk,” he said. “And the risk is even greater with thousands of people floating down the river during the operation.”

After several hours of intense searching, the volunteer Drowning Accident Rescue Team and Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office were deployed “using sonar and underwater diving techniques” to scour the river for the man.

“At this point, we’re in recovery mode and not expecting to locate a viable victim,” he said late Saturday.

On Sunday morning, Wilbourn said divers had recovered the body of a man in his 30s, who would be turned over to the Sacramento County Coroner’s Office. No other details about the recovery were available, he said.

As Saturday’s search took place, firefighters were called five miles downstream about 3:45 p.m. to another water rescue near the 2500 block of East Tiffany Lane in Rancho Cordova.

There, crews in boats found several wayward floaters, including two people who appeared stranded in snags, or tree branches sticking out of the river, Wilbourn said. An additional three people nearby were helped out of the water by personnel from Metro Fire, the Sheriff’s Office and county parks officials.

No injuries were reported in those incidents.

As rafters return to the American River to cool off, authorities are urging rafters and others on the water to wear life jackets, and they are available at several river access points and area fire departments. A sizable Sierra snowpack has led to river levels that are higher and flows significantly faster than usual this time of year.

Recent flows on the river at Fair Oaks were measured as fast as 3,600 cubic feet per second, twice the mean average for this time of year, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. USGS gauges show the temperature of the water to be in the low 60s.