RANCHO CORDOVA, CA - Firefighters and park rangers spent hours searching for a man who fell off his raft into the American River just before 11:30 Sunday morning. The man went under at the San Juan Rapids, and by late afternoon the search shifted from a rescue to a recovery operation.
Michael Koe was fishing when he heard a commotion.
"We were fighting the fish, and then people were screaming on the beach, so we looked and we didn't know what they were doing. A lot of people scream, and then we really zeroed out what they were doing. Somebody went off the back, and they were pointing at him, down there; right there," Koe said.
Koe pulled his boat up to the raft carrying several family members.
"There was kids in the boat. There was three or four kids in the boat, maybe, probably, I don't know, six, five. They were just traumatized. Everybody was traumatized," Koe said.
Koe and others tried to help, but the man had disappeared.
"It's like 30-feet deep, big chunky rocks down there. He just got sucked underneath," Koe said.
"He went into the water wearing a life vest and the life vest popped up and he did not," Sacramento Metro Fire Battalion Chief Michael Lozano said.
Firefighters say the other members of the family were also wearing life vests, and it wasn't clear what went wrong.
"It sounds like they were doing everything that we ask people to do. They were wearing their life jackets when he went into the water, and it's just unfortunate at this point, and my heart just goes out to the family," Lozano said.
"You feel so helpless. You're so helpless because he's right there at the grasp of your hands, but by the time we got there, he went under," Koe said.
At about 6:30 p.m., a body was removed from the American River.
Friday, the Sacramento County coroner released the name of the victim. He was 40-year-old Giao Phong Quoc Doan of Roseville.