Wild rescue: Off-duty CHP officer saves hiker swept up in whirlpool of water near Yosemite
BASS LAKE, Calif. - An off-duty California Highway Patrol saved the life of a hiker who had misjudged the swiftness of the water near Yosemite in a wild rescue caught on video, according to the CHP and the Madera County Sheriff's Office.
Fresno-area CHP Officer Brent Donley, who happens to be trained in search and rescue techniques, was hiking Saturday about noon at Angel Falls near Bass Lake in Madera County with his family. The area is about half an hour from Yosemite.
At the same time, a 24-year-old Fresno man was hiking nearby.
The sheriff's office said in a Facebook post that he didn't realize how fast the water was: With snow runoff, the water was flowing at 50- to 80- feet per second.
"That’s about like 50 to 80 basketballs full of water every second," the sheriff wrote. "The flow overwhelmed and swept him into a whirlpool, which held him under."
Donley and other hikers in the area were able to rescue him, MacGyver-style: The CHP said he used his Adidas backpack’s paracord style strap, cut it out and tied it together with a small branch.
They held out their contraption and the 24-year-old was able to grab it, the sheriff said. Video shows a group of people cheering the hiker on and yelling for him to grab the branch with two hands. A woman also yells out, "Be careful Brent!"
"Officer Donley’s quick thinking and training in search and rescue, undoubtedly helped to save the man’s life," the sheriff wrote.
Donley stayed with the young man and provided first aid until Search and Rescue deputies and paramedics arrived.
The sheriff also used this as a warning to the public. Anyone visiting the mountains should not attempt to cross swift water.
This story was reported from Oakland, Calif.
Lisa Fernandez is a reporter for KTVU. Email Lisa at email@example.com or call her at 510-874-0139. Or follow her on Twitter @ljfernandez