The family members are equipped with walkie-talkies, powerful binoculars and life vests — and they have compartmentalized their grief in order to keep doing what they have to do.
Search. And then search some more.
Dozens of family members came to Bakersfield this week from areas in Northern and Southern California and from as far away as New Jersey after they learned that Shahzad Khan had been swept away by the notorious waters of the Kern River.
"A tragedy like this, there's no blueprint to know what to do and how to do it," Usman Asrar, Khan's brother-in-law, said as he helped coordinate Wednesday's search from a turnout off Highway 178 at the mouth of the Kern River Canyon.
Asrar said the Kern County Sheriff's Search-and-Rescue efforts have been "tremendous."
"We're trying to complement their efforts," he said.
Seven of the family members had been having a wonderful visit to the Kern all day Saturday. They had already finished an expedition below the canyon with a local commercial whitewater adventure company.
"We had just said our late afternoon prayers," Asrar remembered.
There was still some daylight left, so they decided to drive into the canyon.
They took note of the sign at the entrance of the canyon warning that hundreds of lives have been lost in the deceptively inviting waters of the Kern.
"It was beautiful," Asrar said of the sight before them. "Our family was in awe of God's majesty and beauty. We were reflecting and taking it all in."
They pulled into a turnoff about a mile in and walked to the water's edge. Asrar waded into a sheltered spot. "Still water," he called it. Khan was right behind him.
But Khan continued farther out, saying he wanted to go around a boulder.
Eventually, panic ensued. Khan was in trouble. Asrar ran to the road to ask passing motorists for a rope.
Ismael Sindha, Khan's young nephew, remembers seeing his uncle being carried downriver by the fierce current. He was in the "lounge chair position," a safety position they all had been taught earlier that day by whitewater professionals: feet pointed downriver, face up.
But it wasn't enough.
Even sheriff's Search and Rescue teams are not allowed to use inflatables in that part of the river, said KCSO spokeswoman Angela Monroe. It's too dangerous.
For four days the search has continued. On Tuesday, a sheriff's helicopter flew just feet from the surface, making several passes. To no avail. Drones equipped with cameras have scanned the beaches, the banks, the eddies.
And for days, family members have walked the river while spotters on higher ground used binoculars to help them.
"We are trying our best. We are hopeful," Asrar said. "At the same time, we are managing hope and reality."
And reality is winning.