By Shirin Rajaee

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Sacramento-area fire crews rescued two people stranded on a raft late Monday night at the San Juan Rapids, one of the most dangerous stretches of water on the American River.

The Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District officials told CBS13 four friends were out rafting when they lost track of time and their raft got stuck in tree branches.

Two women were able to climb out and go up the hill near the Waldorf School and call police. Crews had two boats, a medic, and two engines on either side of the river. A sheriff’s helicopter and park rangers also assisted. The two people on the raft were rescued shortly before 11 p.m.

This comes as dozens of people had to be rescued on the American River over the weekend. Metro Fire Captain Chris Vestal said the department rescued at least 30 people from six incidents on Saturday.

“There’s a ton of snowpack that’s melting right now making for dangerous conditions,” said rafter Mike Rivera.

Rivera says he’s been rafting on the river for 20-plus years. But now as a father, he doesn’t take chances.

“A lot of undercurrents. So even if the top of the water looks calm, it can suck you under,” said Rivera.

Vestal said river levels have dropped, so rafts are getting snagged by branches, debris and rocks. Also, the real issue is that most rafts people are using are not compatible with river conditions. The rafts are made for home swimming pools, not fast-moving currents.

“See here, you can pinch it, kind of stretch it. Just imagine what a rock, tree branch, or other debris can do,” said Vestal.

Vestal said on Saturday, a big group of 20 people tied a series of the flimsy swimming pool rafts together – and before they knew it, the rafts got snagged on a tree branch. Six people were not wearing life vests.

So what do if you do fall in? What’s the proper swimming position?

“You really need to get on your back, keep your feet up. If you don’t have a life jacket, swim like heck to get into a safe place,” said Vestal.

He said a fun day on the water can easily turn into a rescue in a matter of seconds if you’re not prepared.

Shirin Rajaee

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