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UC Davis student drowns in Putah Creek

A UC Davis student drowned in Putah Creek over the weekend in a rafting accident.

Lisa Sayaka Nakamaru, 20, was on a rafting trip about 2 p.m. Sunday between Lake Solano Park and Monticello Dam when she and a friend fell from their raft into the creek’s fast-moving waters.

The friend made it to shore with minor injuries, but Nakamaru could not be found. She was eventually spotted by other rafters, trapped against rocks underwater.

Winters Fire Chief Aaron McAlister and his crew heard commotion from the rafters who spotted the body. Firefighter-rescue swimmers from the Winters department pulled Nakamaru from the water.

She was pronounced dead at the scene.

Nakamaru, who lived in Davis but was from Torrance, started attending UC Davis in fall 2012. Her mother, Grace Nakamaru, said in an email that her daughter had changed her major from political science to human relations and wanted to counsel children.

She said Lisa loved the outdoors. She played ultimate Frisbee at Davis and enjoyed snowboarding, camping, hiking, fishing and traveling.

“She passed away doing what she loved, being outdoors and being active,” he mother said.

She noted that the family had traveled to Kenya earlier this year because Lisa loved animals. She was devoted to her dog, Rosie.

“She lived life to the fullest and always gave 110percent in everything she did,” Grace Nakamaru said. “She was always there for her friends and family, with her love, kindness, positive attitude and infectious smile.”

In addition to her parents, Ward and Grace Nakamaru, Lisa Nakamaru is survived by two older brothers, Calvin and Andy.

McAlister, the Winters fire chief, said the women encountered “aggressive rapids” and their raft became entangled in vegetation overhanging the water.

“Those rapids threw them out of their raft,” McAlister said. “Ultimately, one survived and one did not.”

McAlister said Putah Creek was moving fast Sunday. The drowning occurred just west of Fishing Access No. 4.

There was no indication that the women were wearing life vests, McAlister said.

“It was a very tragic day,” he said. “The creek looks very calm in certain areas – like a pond – but it is deceiving. Those flows are significant, and there are spots on that creek where the rapids are difficult to navigate.”

Call The Bee’s Bill Lindelof, (916)321-1079.

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