Fresno, Calif. (KFSN/CNN Newsource) – Heartbreak pierced across the San Joaquin River, as family rushed into each other’s arms after learning 18-year-old Neng Thao was submerged in about eighteen feet of water.
Loved ones say Thao just celebrated his birthday and was supposed to graduate from Edison High School next week, but instead he was the victim of a drowning that happened on a hot, Saturday afternoon.
Kendall Parsio told action news they were sitting on the shore when a group of men starting screaming for help, saying, “He can’t swim he can’t swim.”
Without hesitation, Parsio and his friends jumped in.
He said, “The current was taking us pretty fast and so we got out and went around in about 60 yards we can’t see there was nobody there.”
The victim floated quickly downstream, causing an intense search and rescue for roughly two hours.
With a helicopter in the sky, Fresno Fire said it was a fisherman who assisted them, using his boat’s depth finder and knowledge of the river to locate the young man.
Deputy Chief Todd Toggle said “We were able to find that person so at least we gave him a chance and we owe a lot of thanks to that fisherman who did that.”
As those close to victim grieve the sudden and tragic loss, fire responders are urging people who may venture out on the water to be careful.
Deputy Chief Todd Toggle added, “It looks very smooth across the surface but as we saw today it doesn’t take much for that water to drag you under and it’s dangerous.”
Meantime, Fresno Fire has added more than 20 people to its swift water rescue team and nearly 15 to its rescue boats operations because they know this is just the beginning of a very busy summer.