An Elk Grove man apparently drowned on his birthday Sunday when he failed to surface after sliding down a waterfall into a Nevada County swimming hole.
Omar Chaar, who turned 25 years old Sunday, hiked into the Emerald Pool, a popular summer destination where young people jump and flip from high cliffs into the green water of the South Yuba River – or slide down a waterfall.
His father, Ramez Chaar, said Tuesday that Omar slid into the large pond about 1 p.m. as his friends watched. He never surfaced.
The Nevada County Sheriff’s Office said Tuesday that a search failed to find Omar Chaar. Authorities are reluctant to put divers in gear into the water directly under the falls because of the danger from intense water pressure and possible tree branch snags.
“I would not recommend anyone slide down the waterfall,” said sheriff’s Capt. Jeff Pettitt.
In September 1984, a 20-year-old Davis man disappeared after sliding over the same 10-foot waterfall, according to a Sacramento Bee story. The body of Richard Douglas Holmes, 20, was pulled by divers from 30 feet of water of Emerald Pool at an elevation of about 5,000 feet, 25 miles east of Nevada City.
Pettitt said people have been injured in jumps from the cliffs when the water was too shallow. “We pull a lot of injured people out of there who have jumped,” he said.
Others are killed or injured from being held under by water pressure. Even at low flows, the river is deadly, said Pettitt.
“This group, it is my understanding, were using the waterfall as a water slide,” said Pettitt. “I don’t know how popular that is, but in this case it had a tragic ending because of the hydrology of the water entering the pool.”
Ramez Chaar said his son went to the pool with three friends. Nearly every Sunday, Omar Chaar had been going with his friends to different recreation spots for hikes or to play sports.
“Instead of going to the right when he hit the water, he was pushed by the water or by mistake he went to the left,” said Ramez Chaar. “On the left, there is a kind of hole. It is a very dangerous area. His friends could do nothing at all. They called for help.”
Chaar said there should be a sign to warn people of the swimming dangers.
Omar Chaar, a strong swimmer, is a biochemistry student at California State University, Sacramento, his father said. He spent the day before the trip studying for an exam.
Chaar graduated from Franklin High School.
“We couldn’t celebrate his birthday,” said his father. “The cake is still waiting for him. It doesn’t look good.”