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The Madera Tribune

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Father, daughter drown in river

None in their group knew how to swim

A father and his daughter drowned Saturday in the San Joaquin River after the 4-year-old daughter was swept by the current from a sandbar and he jumped in after her.


Neither knew how to swim, witnesses told Fresno County sheriff’s deputies, who responded to the tragedy.


The drowning occurred just before 5:30 p.m.


“Fresno County Sheriff’s dispatchers received an emergency call saying a man and a young girl had been swept away in the San Joaquin River,” according to Toni Botti, sheriff’s information officer.


Deputies and the sheriff’s Eagle One helicopter rushed to the area where they were last seen, which was at the intersection of San Mateo Road and the river in Mendota.


When deputies arrived, they found several people in the water searching for the man and child. They were told a Fresno family was there to go swimming and fishing.


As the adults were setting up items on the shore, four children ran out to a sandbar in the shallow water.


As they were playing, the current of the river took the kids downstream, Botti said the deputies were told.


The adults jumped into the water and were able to pull three of the children out.


Thirty-three-year-old Alejandro Valencia was able to grab hold of his 4-year-old-daughter, Emily Lopez, but the two went underwater and never resurfaced.


Deputies with swift-water rescue training checked the river, but were unable to find Valencia and Lopez. Members of the sheriff’s dive team rushed to join the search.


Shortly before 9:30 p.m., divers found the dead bodies of Valencia and Lopez at the bottom of the river, about 50 feet away from the original sandbar.


It was discovered that no one in the group knew how to swim.

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