Three teenagers from the Stockton area were rescued from the Stanislaus River on Sunday afternoon, June 27, after putting in at McHenry Recreation Area in Escalon.
The three, each floating on an inner tube, were located a few miles downstream on the river, south of Van Allen.
“The family had the mistaken idea, like many do, that the river went in a circle,” Escalon Fire Department Battalion Chief Dan Morriss explained, noting that the teens thought they could float off from McHenry Rec and be back at the same spot shortly thereafter.
Escalon Fire was dispatched to the scene shortly after 3:30 p.m., after a family member reported the teens missing about two hours after they had left the McHenry Rec area.
The San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Department was also notified of the missing teens and put out a ‘be on the lookout’ around 4 p.m. Sunday 27. They identified the missing juveniles as a 12-year-old girl and two boys, a 14-year-old and a 15-year-old.
“It was a brother and a sister and their friend,” Morriss added.
Sheriff’s officials said they were told the original plan was to float from one parking area of McHenry Rec to the other but that didn’t work.
“Stanislaus County was initially called out but then we were notified it was out of McHenry Rec,” said Morris. “Stanislaus County put up a helicopter, Salida Fire responded and we put our boat in the water.”
Morriss said Salida crews were the first to get a visual on the group and Escalon was able to utilize their rescue boat to reach the teens.
“They were in the water with their inner tubes, they had no life jackets,” the battalion chief explained. “They were about four miles downstream from where they started.”
The three were rescued shortly before 4:30 p.m. and brought back to McHenry Rec where they were reunited with family members.
Morriss said the teens were extremely lucky as, he noted, “they weren’t swimmers” and they were able to hang on to the inner tubes until they were rescued.
The water at this time of year can also still be deceivingly chilly and fast-flowing and authorities said anyone going in to the water should always wear a life jacket, let family members know their plans and go with a buddy.
As the summer temperatures continue to climb, the river becomes a more enticing playground, so officials are asking everyone to use both caution and common sense.