By Shirin Rajaee

NEVADA COUNTY (CBS13) — A dramatic helicopter rescue saved the life of a Reno man from a raging Yuba River.

The man was swept downriver from Emerald Pools in Nevada County by the fast-moving water on Saturday.

The California Highway Patrol is warning people that the rivers are dangerous, but many people just aren’t listening.

Kalani Tuiono, 25 of Reno, sat on a small rock in the middle of the Yuba River desperate for help.

“For him to not get sucked in is a miracle in itself. and for him to wind up on that lone boulder just before he goes under that big waterfall is amazing,” said David White, flight officer, and paramedic with the California Highway Patrol.

Tuiono was enjoying a day on the water at with his girlfriend. He thought the river was calm enough for him to swim across, but instead, he was swept down the river for about a mile, going under several times, and hitting rocks along the way.

“There’s no way you’re going to overpower these currents right now, especially how they’re flowing,” said White.

“Even people who take precautions have accidents happen,” said CHP pilot Jason Hertzell.

Where Tuiono was sitting was above a 50-foot waterfall, and the California Highway Patrol helicopter had no room for error.

“He’s very lucky to be alive, and had the strength to hold on to that boulder,” said Hertzell.

Tuiono is one of nearly a dozen people who have needed help just in the last few weeks. And it costs about $1,000 an hour to fly CHP’s helicopter.

So who foots the bill?

“We don’t charge the people anything,” said White.

Unlike other states such as New Hampshire, Utah, and Oregon which has the discretion to bill wayward adventurers for search and rescue, the people of California pay for these helicopter rescues, through a state-funded budget for the CHP.

“If they’re lost, and need help, we don’t want them to think oh I don’t want to call cause helicopters are too expensive. We don’t charge, Call 911,” said White.

The Sheriff’s department can charge the county where the person resides for missions over $100 but say they rarely do.

But fee or not— the biggest fee you can pay is your life.

“We’re hoping people see this story and other stories we’ve done to stay out of the rivers there’s been a lot of people who have drowned already. Hopefully, we can stop it there,” said White.

Remarkably, Tuiono only suffered minor scratches and abrasions. An unbelievable outcome to a very dangerous situation.

  1. I hate to think we have reached the point where first responders won’t save someone because it has an associated cost. That’s what we pay them to do. Public service? And do taxpayers now want to pick and choose who benefits from their tax dollars that pay for public safety?

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