Five people were rescued from the San Joaquin River after authorities say their vehicle got stranded near Mendota on Tuesday morning, Fresno County Fire said.
The call came in at 6:41 a.m. about a vehicle with five occupants that was in the San Joaquin River near Whitesbridge and San Mateo avenues.
It was shortly after 6 a.m. when the driver of this SUV and his co-workers attempted to cross the river and became stuck.
“It’s familiar to them, I’ve heard that they do this quite often because they work on the ranch north of here so they probably weren’t thinking that the river had risen,” said Sean Duncan with the California Highway Patrol.
The driver who did not want to go on camera tells us they cross through the San Joaquin River every day.
He said the water is typically low enough to get through.
Tuesday morning he said it was too dark to tell it was higher than normal and halfway through the river the vehicle turned off.
All five men climbed onto the roof and called 911.
“The water is really strong right now, the current is really strong and ice cold,” said Sgt Mike Nulick with the Fresno County Sheriffs Office.
Search and Rescue teams were called out.
The driver said they were in the roof for over an hour before they were rescued by boat.
“The boat went in and provided life jackets for all five men. Took out i believe 3-4 on the first trip and then came back and made a second trip and picked out two more,” Sgt. Nulick said.
None of the men were injured.
It took about 3 hours before the SUV could be pulled out of the water.
The vehicle could be a total loss.
After being pulled out, the owner went through it and said it had extensive water damage.
Nearby farmers said San Mateo Avenue is a dirt road used daily as a shortcut.
If drivers don’t go through the river, they’ll have to go around through Fireball, which is a 15-30 minute drive.