A 35-year-old Crescent City man drowned on Tuesday after he entered the Smith River to rescue his nephew.
According to Commander Tim Athey of the Del Norte County Sheriff’s Office, Carlos Daniel Gomez-Diaz, who went by Daniel, was pronounced dead at the scene after a CPR attempt failed to resuscitate him. The 13-year-old boy that he and the boy’s father had jumped in to help was released to family on Tuesday after a medical evaluation.
Athey said that the 13-year-old, who had been swimming in the river when he “became distressed and tried to get out and was unable to,” was the initial reason for the many 911 calls the department received around 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, but callers’ concerns quickly shifted to Gomez-Diaz.
“The first call — we got hundreds of calls; they overloaded the 911 system — but the initial call came in saying, ‘Hey, there’s a kid in distress. People are going out in the water trying to get him.’ And then it was, ‘Oh, he’s out — oh no, there’s still one in the water.’”
Athey said that Gomez-Diaz had been barbecuing with family and friends at Ruby Van Deventer County Park off of North Bank Road on Tuesday afternoon when he jumped into the river with his brother to help rescue the teen struggling in the water.
“He went under the water and apparently wasn’t able to swim or wasn’t able to swim very well,” Athey said. “It’s just the river, the currents, the water — it’s a deep hole, it’s about 30 feet deep. People need to watch out for that river. It’s not a forgiving area.”
Neither the boy nor Gomez-Diaz were wearing lifejackets or flotation devices, according to Athey, and it was reported to authorities but not confirmed that Gomez-Diaz had gone into the water wearing his shoes.
“If you go into the water and you don’t have personal protection devices — lifejackets — then that goes against you,” he said.
The Smith River Fire Department, Del Norte County Sheriff’s Office (including its boating and safety division), California Highway Patrol, Fort Dick Fire Department and Del Norte Search and Rescue responded to the incident.