The man was swept away downstream after the child was rescued, and later died at a local hospital

By Rachel DeSantis
June 10, 2020 11:18 AM
Kings River Fresno
Kings River in Winton Park
| Credit: Gemini2525/Wikimedia

A fisherman in California died on Tuesday after he and several others jumped into a river to help save a young boy who’d been swept away by the water.

The man, who was in his early 60s, was at Winton Park in Sanger around 4:30 p.m. when he noticed the child’s dire situation, the Fresno County Sheriff's Office confirmed to PEOPLE.

He and members of the child’s family jumped in the water to help, with officials describing a chaotic scene in which attempted rescuers wound up having to save one another.

“People were trying to save other bystanders and bystanders were trying to save those people,” Fresno County Fire/CAL FIRE Battalion Chief Ryan Michaels told KFSN. “Ultimately, multiple people were in the water, [and there were] several near-drownings.”

Of the five people in the water, at least two were children, CBS affiliate KGPE reported.

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The sheriff's office said the family was able to get the child to safety, but the man was swept away downstream despite efforts to reach him with a throw bag.

He was carried about half a mile downstream, and a helicopter dispatched by the sheriff's office spotted him about 40 minutes later. Though rescuers attempted CPR, he was later pronounced dead at a local hospital.

The area in which the incident occurred has no cell phone service, so rescuers’ response was reportedly delayed, as witnesses had to drive to the nearest fire station to flag down help.

“One slip or one false step and you can be in water that’s producing several hundred pounds of force against your body,” Michaels told Fox affiliate KMPH. “Even for our firefighters who have wet suits and life jackets, it’s still a very dangerous situation.”