Kern River

The Kern River flows west toward Bakersfield.

A man and his cousins were jumping from rocks into the Kern River Saturday morning near Keyesville when BLM and Forest Service officials came over and warned them it was dangerous.

The cousins got out of the water, and the officials left.

One of the cousins, a 22-year-old Los Angeles man, decided not to heed the warnings and jumped back in the river. He was drawn out into the main channel and got caught underneath the surface.

Not long after, he was dead.

“A lot of folks from out of the area haven’t heard the constant warnings, may not be aware of the dangers (of the Kern),” said Kern County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue Sgt. Steve Williams, who gave the account. “But in this case, he was made acutely aware minutes before and he ignored that and jumped in.

“I don’t know how to prevent that sort of tragedy.”

By The Californian’s count, this was the seventh drowning on the swollen, fast-moving Kern River this year. Williams thought it was the eighth. Two people are still missing after being lost in the Kern, one in the Keyesville area.

Whatever the exact tally, the river is proving to be what experts expected for 2017 — very, very dangerous. And summer has just begun.

The man who died Saturday has not been identified. That will come from the Kern County coroner’s office later.

Williams was able to say he was camping at the Sandy Flat Campground and jumping off rocks into the river near there. After jumping in and being pulled into the main channel, the man was seen floating facedown.

Bystanders at the Keyesville South Campground saw the body caught in some brush, waded into the water and pulled him out as sheriff’s deputies and Bureau of Land Management personnel were arriving, Williams said.

Someone from BLM conducted CPR on the man with Kern County Fire Department personnel, he said, until Liberty Ambulance crews came on scene and took over life-saving measures.

The man was taken to Kern Valley Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

The Keyesville area has proven particularly deadly this year.

By The Californian’s tally, Saturday’s victim was the fourth person to be lost there this summer. Two others died; one went missing on June 22 and still hasn’t been found.

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