Search teams resumed their search this morning for a 36-year-old man swept away by the Merced River Wednesday night near Hagaman Park after he rescued his 3-year-old daughter.
The search will focus on Hagaman Park and a 1-mile radius from where the man was last seen, said Deputy Daryl Allen, of the Merced County Sheriff’s Department.
“If the search takes us farther, then we will go farther,” he said.
The little girl was pulled to the shore after her father, Jose Castaneda, her mother, Faviola Ochoa, and at least five bystanders jumped into the river just north of Lander Avenue and River Road near Stevinson, sheriff’s officials said.
Ochoa, who is pregnant, along with the bystanders all made it out of the water. Castaneda, however, did not emerge. Several agencies, including the sheriff’s department and the California Highway Patrol, were searching the area until about 9:30.
More than 20 personnel searched for Castaneda last night, including the sheriff’s dive team and search and rescue teams. Those teams will continue their efforts today, joined by numerous law enforcement officials on dry land and likely an air unit as well, Allen said.
The toddler and her mother were hospitalized as a precaution. The toddler inhaled water and was vomiting after being pulled from the water. Ochoa, who is pregnant, sought medical attention as a precaution, Allen said.
Investigators ask the public to refrain from swimming at Hagaman Park while the search continues. Allen also said people should stay out of the water as a safety precaution.
“That river if flowing, and it’s swift,” he said. “It may not look that way from the surface, but under the water the current is fast and will drag you away.”
Numerous drownings have been reported in the last few months on the Tule River, Kern River and San Joaquin River.
So far this year, one 50-year-old man is believed to have drowned at Yosemite after falling into the Merced River from a winding trail. His body has not been found.
About 996,000 acre-feet of water flows down the Merced River in an average year, according to the Merced Irrigation District. Since Oct. 1, Lake McClure has passed about 1.7 million acre-feet of water downstream.
Read the latest update at this link.
Brianna Calix: 209-385-2477