Michael Ramirez

Michael Ramirez, known as Dossicc, jumped into the Kern River at the Keyesville Campground Thursday evening and disappeared.

Ramirez family

Michael Ramirez jumped into the Kern River at the Keyesville Campground Thursday evening and disappeared.

Now a small army of his friends and family spend every day hunting along miles of the Kern River for the man who was known as Dossicc in the Orange County underground music scene.

Erica Zambada, who planned to marry Ramirez, said he was an emcee in Rebellion Warfare, a underground hip-hop group that she described as one that defied commercial music to tell real stories about life and the struggle to survive.

“The way that he expresses himself, the way that he paints a picture for you, it is a gift you’re born with,” she said.

Ramirez turned 27 on June 19. Zambada said she surprised him with a camping trip to the Kern River.


The pair were joined by fellow Rebellion Warfare member Christ Cabalero and his girlfriend for the trip.

But when they got into the Kern River Valley at around 11 a.m. Thursday they learned that the campground where they’d planned to camp had been flooded by the river, Zambada said.

They spent much of the rest of the day searching for a new place to camp, finally locating a workable spot in the Keyesville campground near the river, she said.

Temperatures were in the 100s.

After unpacking and setting up the tent, Zambada said, Ramirez said he wanted to cool off in the river.

The group headed down to the water.

The water seemed safe, Zambada said, and Ramirez checked the flow before jumping in.

He swam back, climbed out, jumped in a second time, and swam back again. Then he jumped again.

“The third time he was having trouble swimming back,” Zambada said.

The women tied a rope to Cabalero and he jumped in after his friend.

Zambada said Cabalero got within a foot of Ramirez before the water swept him away and began sucking at his would-be rescuer.

“The undercurrent was too strong. We had to pull Christ back in,” Zambada said.

She said she tried to run after Ramirez, following him down the river.

But trees choked the bank and he disappeared before she could get past them and up a small hill to the next good view of the river, she said.

She called 911; Kern Valley Search and Rescue was on scene within minutes, she said.

They couldn’t find him.


Ramirez is the third person to be lost from Keyesville this summer. The other two died, their bodies discovered downstream.

Not far upstream from the campground the swollen Kern River roars out of the Isabella Lake dam at nearly 5,000 cubic feet per second, a strategy that helps to reduce the remote risk that the pressure of a full lake could cause the dam to fail.

So far in 2017 six people have died in the Kern River.

Zambada said Search and Rescue team members told her that Ramirez is likely dead.

She rejects that idea outright.

“I have faith that he is still alive,” she said. “He is a good swimmer. He knows survival skills.”


By 11:30 a.m. the morning after he disappeared, Ramirez’s parents and 20 friends were at the Kern River and ready to search for him, Zambada said.

Since then they’ve scoured the Kern River every day, covering the river from the spot he went in to Miracle Hot Springs roughly eight miles away.

Search and Rescue teams are out there too, Zambada said.

“If it wasn’t for search and rescue there would be no one looking for him,” she said.

But the group is completely made up of volunteers and they can’t spend all day on the river. At most they put in a few hours each day.

So she and Michael’s family and his friends keep up the hunt.

“Michael was very loved,” she said. “I am thankful that he has so many people who genuinely love him ... out to help look for him.”

But Zambada said she is deeply frustrated by the lack of action by people in Kern County to protect visitors from the river’s dangers.

Visitors from Southern California don’t hear about the dangers of the river.

People are welcomed into the campgrounds, like Keyesville, and they bring children who don’t belong near the river.

There is a big sign at the mouth of the Kern River Canyon telling people about the 280 people who have died in the Kern County section of the river in the past several decades.

And there are smaller signs in some locations that warn of the water's dangers. But those smaller signs aren't everywhere.

And Zambada said there isn't enough being done to warn people to avoid the water.

The river, she feels, should be closed.

But locals resist those drastic measures, Zambada said, because they would compromise the economic benefits tourists bring to Kern County.

What would she tell people from Southern California who want to come to the Kern River and enjoy themselves safely?

“Don’t come. It’s 115 degrees. What are people going to do when it’s 115 degrees? They get in the water,” she said. “Getting in the water should not be an option. That water is evil. Don’t go in.”

As for her and the crew of people who love Ramirez, they will keep hunting.

“We don’t plan on stopping until we’ve found him,” she said.

James Burger can be reached at 661‑395-7415. Follow him on Twitter: @KernQuirks.

(16) comments


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Very sad for this young man to lose his life especially with such a preventable tragedy. I use to live in Kern County, and live in Orange County today. Various LA area news stations and sites have run stories in the last couple of months warning people about the Kern River and advising them to avoid it. The last warning came directly from Kern County officials. I'm not sure what more they can do to let people know. Beyond that, I hope this motivates people to do research on an area that they will be visiting beyond whether camp sites are available and other basics. There were literally warnings everywhere online.


If your mother punishes your brother or sister, does that make her evil? There is an important lesson here that we are failing to learn or she would not be giving it so often. If one does not respect the teacher, how can one learn the lesson?


Visitors from Southern California don’t hear about the dangers of the river.

Really ?? Maybe we need new signs on 178 both Walker pass and the canyon "Welcome to the killer Kern" LA times does more articles then the local papers and news stations, and they are more accurate


Im sorry for the family and friends loss, but theres a whole lake full of water that is safe for swimming in. The warning singns that states "stay out stay alive" is a very serious statement.


First off, I offer my sincere condolences. The chances of finding this man alive at this point are slim-to-none.

When it comes to public policy we should always advocate for utilitarianism. This young lady wants the river to be closed. This is a horrible solution to their willful neglect. The warning signs are there, safety devices are affordable and common sense is required. This man neglected these resources and likely paid the price with his life. If someone drowns in a pool, do you drain the pool or teach people to swim? The warning signs on the Kern River, information online and the media coverage of its danger are abundant. There are no excuses.

Just as human mistakes can't be factored into standard uncertainty; they can't be factored into public policy. If they were we'd have no cars, no sports, no tools etc. Please be diligent, well informed and accountable for your actions when enjoying the outdoors.

Kelly Holcomb

My heart goes out to this family! I pray that your prayers will be answered!!! The signs are posted as everyone has noted at the mouth of the canyon begging people to stay out and stay alive!! This year the kern is flowing at extreme levels! If you cant tell by looking at it how dangerous it is....let me tell you.....it dosnt matter if you are an olympic swimmer!! The Kern River is unforgiving!! Many think they have skills and can survive the mighty kern. Truth is her power is insane! Even if it looks calm on top, when you see the swirl on the top of the water, this is a sign of a swift underwater current that will pull you downstream rapidly! When signs are put up, vandals remove them or graffiti them to where they are unreadable. We hope that people will use common sense and notice the color of the river. It is not that pretty blue showing calm waters. It looks muddy because the underwater current is going so fast, it is taking the dirt from the bottom and making a swift mudslide.....it is pulling the dirt and sand which should tell you there is an undercurrent.....coming up the canyon, you can see the rapids and how crazy they look! To me the water does not look at all inviting! It scares the heck out of me.......knowing what lies further downstream,...one wrong move and you are done!! When you fight, the river fights back even stronger.....The current pulls you under and most likely the rocks will knock you out, and then you drown.....if you dont fight back she will spit you out when she is done with you...!! Every time i read a story of someone missing, my heart drops!! Please do not ignore the signs!! Search and rescue would rather not be needed!! Those men and women are volunteer!! They dont get paid to save lives, or recover bodys....and it wouldnt hurt their feelings at all to not be needed!! Please people!! STAY OUT OF THE RIVER!! SWIM IN THE LAKE!!!! My condolences to all who suffer loss, and my prayers are with the family of this man!!!


I lived in the valley during my high school years and there has always been a sign at the base of the canyon stating how many lives the river has taken. Also, around town you will see warnings. Just looking at the river winding through the canyon or even in Kernville you can see how monstrous and treacherous it is. I am sorry for the loss I can not imagine going through it, educating yourself before going in a strange body of water is a good idea.

Nikki Stuart

This is a heartbreaking and tragic thing for this family and loved ones to be going through. I cannot express my compassion and respect for them enough. I also cannot even imagine the fear and pain they are going through. I must say as a life long resident here after reading this that there are some statements that need to be corrected. There is a giant sign in two languages as you enter the canyon heading up to our valley stating the deaths caused by the Kern River since 1968. It urges you to stay out of the river. We have search and rescue teams who work over time trying to save the lives of people who do not read the signs. And although the river is at the highest level we have seen in years many keep getting in it without a lifevest or knowledge of the power it possesses. This is a heartbreaking situation and I pray for the miracle this family is hoping for. We as residents have seen this far too often and we do encourage everyone to chose the lake above the river in seasons like this. God bless.


So true. Prayers to him and his family. I just can't agree with people not knowing how to be responsible for their actions. The signs start at the bottom of the canyon stating the dangers of the river and the lives lost. Stay out stay alive....wear a life vest, etc. I was from L A and knew the dangers of the river way before moving here. Also a big issue of the speeding and passing in the canyon is posted throughout the canyon for slow drivers yo use the pull outs. We will see many more this summer as sad as it is. Be smart and use common sense. We warn people of the dangers for those who chose to listen.


I'm sorry but this article bull****, for lack of a better term. The first sign you see when entering Lake Isabella on route 178 there's a huge sign that states how many lives the river has taken and to beware. Plus signs in the valley that say go in at your own risk and be cautious when swimming in the river and the lake. I was 8 and never lived there until my teen years and I knew how dangerous it was and wasn't even from there so excuses and trash talk on the Kern Valley is all this is. The locals warn, there's pages on FB, there are signs that warn you to be cautious and of how many people get swept by the undercurrent. You want safer for children? Go to the lake. You can jump in as many times as you want no rocks. It's just like, take responsibility for your own irresponsibility rather than blame everyone and everything else.


I'm so sorry for your loss but there has to be some common sense. The water is dangerous but not evil. There are warnings and if people choose to ignore unfortunate things happen. It is ultimately the individual's responsibility for their actions not the water or anyone else! We do have a lake to swim in and it also comes with some risk but is a lot safer.


Sad story and I can't imagine what the parents are going through, but I don't believe the county or state needs to spend the money putting up signs warning people that the Kern river will be dangerous in a year that had above avg Rain and snowfall. As adults I believe we should be responsible for ourselves and not expect a government agency to save our lives.

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