Search continues for man who jumped into Merced River

STEVINSON, Calif. - Merced County rescue crews diligently combed the Merced River along Hagaman Park in Stevinson to locate a man who jumped in the river to rescue his daughter Wednesday night. The sheriff's office calls this incident another reminder to how dangerous the Central Valley's waterways are right now.

Jorge Gutierrez brings his family to Hagaman Park when he can, especially in the summer since they don't have a pool.

When he does, he said he becomes a watchdog over his kids while they're in the water.

"The whole time I'll just be watching where they're at," Gutierrez said. "Make sure they don't go out to the deep ends."

Especially in light of what happened Tuesday night. A family of three were playing in the river at the park when the three-year-old daughter got caught up in the current.

Both parents jumped in after her. The child and mother were rescued, but the father, Jose Castaneda, still hasn't turned up.

The Merced County Sheriff's Office first got the call about the incident around 5:30 p.m. Tuesday. Search efforts continued until around 9:30 p.m. and then resumed around 8 a.m. Thursday.

As crews searched the waters, the snowmelt proved to make things difficult by increasing the speed of the water.

Deputy Daryl Allen, public information officer for the sheriff's office, reminds families that while our waterways provide a nice cool down from the summer heat – the water doesn't look as calm as it does on the surface. Especially with debris rushing through the water.

At this time, Hagaman Park is closed to the public. Allen said the park had already been closed for some time, but people moved barricades to go into the park anyway.

The search for Castaneda continues Friday and will be focused in an area of the river that flows through private property.

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