A young woman drowned Friday as she tried to cross the American River on foot near Highway 49 in the Auburn State Recreation Area.
Mike Schneider, superintendent of the recreation area, said three young women had crossed the river on foot near the confluence of the north and middle forks of the American River. They made it safely across the first time, but on the return trip to get their belongings a little after 11 a.m., one woman slipped in a knee-deep rapid and was swept downstream.
Schneider said a crew with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection happened to be in the area looking for an illegal fire. The battalion chief saw the woman flailing as she was going under the Highway 49 bridge. The battalion chief called for aid, and personnel with State Parks, the Placer County Sheriff’s Office and Placer County swiftwater rescue and dive teams responded.
After searching the river for about two hours, the dive team recovered the woman’s body about 250 yards from where she went into the water, Schneider said. Her name had not been released pending notification of her family. Schneider said he did not know where the victim or her companions lived.
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Although the air temperature was about 95 degrees Friday, Schneider said the water temperature was in the upper 50s or low 60s, and rescuers who went into the water to search for the woman experienced cramps. The confluence area is popular with swimmers, but Schneider said people need to be aware that water levels fluctuate, and the bottom is uneven, with rocks, tree snags and other debris that can trap people. Even when wading in shallow water, a slip or a trip can prove deadly, he said.