Five days after Jose Castaneda was swept away in the Merced River, deputies with Merced County Sheriff’s Office continue to patrol the river downstream from Hagaman Park in search of his body.
Deputies have been patrolling the river at least twice a day, Deputy Daryl Allen said. Search and rescue teams scoured the riverbank over the weekend, but they saw no sign of Castaneda.
Deputies on Monday acknowledged there is little hope of finding Castaneda alive.
“He hasn’t turned up,” he said. “He’s not out there calling for help.”
The 36-year-old ranch hand and father of five from Stevinson disappeared Wednesday evening after his 3-year-old daughter was swept away by the current during a family swimming trip at Hagaman Park in a rural area north of Stevinson.
His wife, Faviola Ochoa, who is six-months pregnant, also jumped into the water after the child, along with nearly half a dozen bystanders. Ochoa said she doesn’t know how to swim. She and the child were rescued.
Ochoa has been going back to the river every day hoping her husband is found, she said Monday. She said deputies should be looking more extensively and for a longer amount of time.
“I don’t think they’re doing all they can do,” Ochoa said. “I just want to focus on finding him.”
A sheriff’s detective has been in contact with Ochoa giving her updates on the search, Allen said.
Merced County park officials since have barricaded the lower parking lot at the park and posted temporary signs warning people not to swim in the river. A sheriff’s deputy also has remained at the park to make sure visitors aren’t trying to swim.
Valley rivers are particularly dangerous this year, as warm temperatures melt a record snowpack in the Sierra.
“It’s so hot and everyone wants to get out and cool down,” Allen said. “But the snowpack is melting at a rapid pace and causing the river to run swiftly and full.”
Brianna Calix: 209-385-2477