From a criminal activity perspective, the long Memorial Day weekend was relatively quiet but as soon as the weather took a turn for the warm, emergency responders were kept busy racing from one water incident to another. Add in a lost hiker or two and the weekend suddenly became filled with worry and then tragedy.
Several members of the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department Swift Water Rescue team were deployed in Three Rivers the entire weekend. There was reasonable expectation that there would be water-related emergencies.
The first call for swift water rescue came in Monday, the afternoon of Memorial Day. Several swimmers were apparently jumping off a large rock just below the Edison swimming hole.
One of the rock jumpers was injured when he landed awkwardly and began to struggle in the water. Fortunately for the victim, his friend was able to pull him out of the current in the middle of the channel and get him to shore. That’s where he was treated by medical personnel at the scene and then transported to Kaweah Delta Medical Center for further treatment.
That medical aid followed another emergency one day earlier (Sunday) for Tulare County Sheriff’s Office responders at Lake Kaweah. In that incident, V. Damian Ellis, a five-year-old boy from Visalia, was with his family on a houseboat anchored near shore in Greasy Cove, at the westernmost end of the lake.
Details are sketchy but a commotion was heard when the boy’s eight-year-old brother tried to pull Damian from the water after he had fallen in. Other boaters in the area were able to get Damian out of the water and administer CPR.
One of Damian’s rescuers was a respiratory nurse whose wife drove their boat to find a TCSO boat patrol officer. Once boat patrol officers arrived, Damian was transported to Kaweah Marina where he was handed off to a waiting ambulance. The young victim was transported to
Kaweah Delta Medical Center where he was examined and then airlifted to Valley Children’s Hospital north of Fresno. Damian succumbed to his injuries on Monday, May 28.
Damian had been wearing a life jacket, as is the law for children under the age of 13 when on a boat or personal watercraft “in motion” on the water. He had been allowed to take off the life jacket while watching a movie because he said he was cold.
On Monday evening, a female backpacker reported one of their party from the Los Angeles area did not return from a hike in the Big Meadows area of Giant Sequoia National Monument after they had been camped at Jennie Lake. A joint search-and-rescue team of rangers and TCSO personnel hiked out and found the missing hiker near the trail at about 1:30 a.m.
At first light, the SAR team was able to hike out with the exhausted but uninjured hiker to the trailhead where she was reunited with her party.
In another ongoing search in Kings Canyon National Park, overdue hiker Stephen McGuire, 67, of Washington, who is thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail from south to north, was last heard from May 15 and reported missing a week later, was located in good condition at Devils Postpile
National Monument on Monday, May 28. McGuire was slowed by adverse weather in the high country and was hungry and tired but did not require emergency medical assistance.
Multiple requests for the weekend’s incidents in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks went unanswered.