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Multiple Drownings Claim Campers' Lives

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It’s late June and multiple drownings have already been reported in central California's Kern River.

On Saturday morning around 9 a.m., a California Highway Patrol helicopter sighted the body of a 53-year-old Palmdale man whose name has yet be to released by Tulare County Sheriff’s Department, The Kern Valley Sun reported.

According to the Gold Ledge camp host, he rode in to the campground on a motorcycle, spread a towel on the ground, stripped down to his swimming trunks and entered the water. He was reported missing about 6:30 p.m., although no one had reported actually seeing him in the water, said Tulare County Sheriff Sgt. Chris Douglass.

His body was caught on a tree in the river, about seven miles north of Kernville. The Tulare County Sheriff's Department swift water rescue team responded and retrieved the body later Saturday afternoon.

During the Tulare team search, a body identified as Minh Tu Nguyen, 22, of Westminster, was spotted about 20 yards away. Nguyen and a friend, Scott Neacato, of Norwalk, also 22, went missing on June 13, after their raft was pulled into turbulence and capsized, tossing both young men into the river.

They were part of a group of 11 people who were camping at Ant Canyon campground, about one mile above Gold Ledge, according to Tulare Sheriff's reports.

Saturday at 10:53 a.m., the Kern County Sheriff’s Communication Center received a report of a possible drowning near Sandy Flat.

Witnesses reported hearing his calls for help and seeing Daniel Kilgore, 55, from Thousand Oaks, being swept downstream. They lost sight of him in the rapids between Sandy Flat and Hobo Flat Campgrounds. Kilgore’s family, camped at Sandy Flat, reported he was not wearing a life vest.

Sheriff’s Search & Rescue Volunteers from the Kern Valley Swift Water Rescue Team, Sheriff’s Helicopter, Kern Valley Patrol deputies, Kern County Fire, and U. S. Forest Service responded to the area and searched for Kilgore. At 5:25 p.m., searchers had not located Kilgore and the search was suspended. Kilgore is considered missing and presumed drowned. The search for Kilgore is ongoing.

Saturday afternoon, Kern Valley Search and Rescue crews were called out, again to Sandy Flat, to rescue two Palmdale boys trapped on the north side of the river. The boys were inner tubing at Sandy Flat campground just a few miles downriver from Lake Isabella, according to Kern County Sheriff Office.

The boys, who were wearing life jackets, were pulled to safety. Neither boy was injured.

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