by Yasmeen Hassan

PLACER COUNTY (CBS13) —  It was a fight against time and nature on the American River.

“This water is moving so fast it could move a bus if a bus were in the way of this water. And so, it’s very hard to try and struggle against that,” said Mary Eldridge with Cal Fire.

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(credit: Cal Fire NEU)

The day started off as a celebration for a group of friends, for the end of Ramadan.

“Today is their major holiday. It’s time for them to enjoy themselves. They came down to the river. They were getting ready to pack up and he said ‘Hey, one more swim,” said Sergeant Kevin Griffiths, with Placer County Dive and Swift Rescue.

That’s when friends say the current and the water temperature was just too much for him.

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“It is pure snow runoff from the Sierra Nevada mountains. It is colder than you can imagine,” Eldridge said. “When you get in in just a matter of seconds it can really freeze your muscles so you can’t move in the water and so it doesn’t feel like water anymore it’s like you’re moving in molasses.”

Friends say the man tried to hold on to a tree branch but no one could get to him.

“There was a guy who jumped in after him and I’m surprised we’re not trying to recover two people,” Sergeant Griffiths said.

The Placer County Sheriff’s Department, Cal Fire, CHP helicopters, and water rescue crews scoured the river from every angle but even when they caught glimpses of the man, they feared the worst.

“As they were running they actually spotted him and were running alongside the river. He wasn’t yelling he wasn’t doing that he was just kind of floating in the center. That’s not a good sign at all,” Sergeant Griffiths said.

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The search was called off for the night when it got dark but crews are planning on being back on the river first thing Wednesday morning.