FRESNO – A stranded fisherman was able to cling to a tree in the middle of the freezing San Joaquin River just long enough to be rescued late Sunday night after a boat carrying him and two friends overturned.
Two of the fishermen were able to make their way to shore, where they found a payphone at a nearby closed business and contacted authorities.
According to Fresno County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Chris Curtice, the 911 call came in shortly after 10 p.m. Sunday from one of the fishermen.
The investigation revealed that the three subjects were heading upstream in a 14-foot aluminum boat and were about one mile south of Lost Lake Park located north of Fresno when they were upended during a turn.
“As they attempted to turn around and come back downstream, the boat overturned and all three were thrown into the river,” Curtice said. “Two of the subjects were able to get to the shore. However, the third could only swim to a tree and hang on.”
Lost Lake Park is known in Fresno County for its kayaking and canoeing. However, the river water was at a freezing temperature and can have debilitating effects on the human body if it is exposed in the water for too long.
The 911 call was made from a telephone booth outside of a closed business nearby. Sheriff’s authorities were aided in their search by CAL FIRE personnel, Emergency Medical Service units and a California Highway Patrol helicopter.
After locating the subject, who had climbed the tree to which he was holding in the middle of the river, deputies from the department’s Boating Enforcement Unit launched a zodiac raft and made their way to him. That subject climbed down and got into a rescue raft with deputies inside. No one, including the stranded subject, was injured during the rescue.
The aluminum boat was unaccounted for because it sank in the river. The sheriff’s department is looking into how the late night boating accident occurred.