Patrols scramble to rescue overwhelmed rafters on American River

On the first day of summer, standing in the sparse shade of trees lining the American River, Patrick Ellis eyed a group of rafters as they swept toward a bike/pedestrian bridge near Sunrise Boulevard.

“These guys, their rafts are tied together, they’re not wearing life preservers, not even attempting to paddle,” Ellis said Tuesday.

Ellis, a battalion chief with the Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District, knew that hours before, the current had caught a similar group and smacked a raft against a pylon as they tried to pass under the bridge. Two rafters fell into the river and swam to shore. Two others clung to the pylon until a rescue boat picked them up.

Now, Ellis saw the makings of yet another water rescue – potentially the sixth on the river in 24 hours.

As he tracked their progress from shore, the two rafts disappeared for a moment under the bridge. Then they came rushing through, untouched, and resumed their drift downriver.

“They’re lucky,” Ellis said.

More at the Sacramento Bee. >>>

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