The teen boy pulled unconscious out of the Colorado River after floating downstream underwater for about 100 yards has been identified.
Junior de Jesus Salamanca, 17, is currently listed in critical condition at Phoenix Children’s Hospital.
The near-drowning occurred at about 4:45 p.m. Wednesday when two of Salamanca’s younger siblings became distressed while swimming beneath the Ocean-to-Ocean Bridge, the Yuma County Sheriff’s Office reported.
Salamanca, who was swimming nearby, tried to rescue his young brother and sister, who were between the ages of 3 and 5.
He was able to reach the children, but as he was returning with them to the shore, he fell into a deep drop off at the north side of the Colorado River beneath the railroad bridge and disappeared under the surface. At that time, he lost his grip on the two children.
Mike Colberg had been swimming in the area and had stopped for a moment near the large rocks underneath the railroad bridge nearby when he became aware of the two children and swam to their rescue.
He was able to grab the young boy and bring him into a nearby cove. With the aid of a second man, both the boy and girl were taken to the opposite shore. Both children were uninjured.
Colberg had been unaware of Salamanca, who continued to float downstream at least 100 yards just beneath the surface.
Salamanca’s father began shouting for help to find his son. Two people standing on the southern shore beneath the Interstate 8 bridge spotted the teen beneath the water a short time later. They brought him ashore and began CPR while someone called 911.
Paramedics responded to the scene, where they began trying to revive the teen as he lay in the sand on the riverbank. They placed him in a gurney and continued chest compressions as they loaded him into the back of a Yuma Fire Department ambulance. He was then transported to Yuma Regional Medical Center before being flown by helicopter to Phoenix Children’s Hospital.
The incident has prompted YCSO to warn Yuma area residents about the dangers associated with swimming in natural waterways.
“River flows and depth can change on a day-to-day basis so don’t assume just because you were there one day that it will be the same the next,” said Lt. Darren Simmons.
“Watch small children closely and make sure they are wearing approved safety flotation devices.”