The bodies of an 8-year-old girl and 4-year-old brother were found within 24 hours of each other in Fresno County’s fast-flowing Kings River, ending a frantic search for the couple, authorities said.
According to the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office, the girl was first discovered — on Sunday afternoon, less than an hour after rescuers conducted the search. Her brother’s body was discovered Monday morning, two miles downstream, and pinned to a tree.
About 40 members of the search and rescue team, including members of Cal Fire/Fresno County and Fresno firefighters, assisted in the search, Fresno County Sheriff John Zanoni said. said in a statement. Riverboats, remote-controlled vehicles, drones and helicopters were all used in the search.
The effort began Sunday afternoon after two siblings, their mother and an adult friend went swimming near the Pine Flat Dam in Piedra just before 2pm.
Authorities said they had entered the Kings River despite signs across the estuary saying the area was closed. According to the Sheriff’s Office, visitors have been banned since March 14 due to “high water levels” and “dangerous conditions” due to heavy winter storms and melting snow.
The four managed to reach for a rock as they waded across the river, only to have the children washed away. Neither child was wearing a life jacket.
The sheriff’s helicopter discovered the drowned girl shortly after the search began. Less than 24 hours later, her brother was also found.
Zanoni offered no conditions to the mother or family friend.
In the press release, Zanoni noted that the river is still dangerous and there is no timetable for its opening.
“The conditions of our waterways will only become more dangerous going into summer as the snow melts and dams release even more water into the rivers,” he said. “The water is still cold, at a depth of 50 degrees, the current is fast and the trees are dangerous obstacles.”