Two teens killed in outdoor accidents

Man, 18, falls into ravine in Three Rivers, boy, 17, drowns in rapids on Tule River near Springville

TULARE COUNTY – It was a dangerous weekend along ravines and rapids in Tulare County after two teenagers were killed in separate accidents.

The first happened on Friday, May 15 when an 18-year-old fell down a 50-foot ravine in Three Rivers. The topography of the area made it difficult for rescue teams to pull the man to safety. Tulare County Sheriff’s Department’s Search and Rescue Team responded at about 10 p.m. California Highway Patrol attempted to hoist the victim out with its helicopter but were unsuccessful. The Sheriff’s Department then called in the Naval Air Station Lemoore’s Search and Rescue Team and were able to get a medic and the victim to a clearing.

The 18 year old, who was later identified as Brandon Mendez of Exeter, was then airlifted to Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno where he died from his injuries just after 1:45 a.m. earl Saturday morning. He was a senior at Exeter Unified High School.

“Our hearts go out to his family and friends,” the Sheriff’s Department posted on its Facebook page. “Please keep them in your prayers.”

The second happened on May 17 when a 17-year-old boy died after being caught in the rapids of the Tule River. Just after 4 p.m. on Sunday, the Sheriff’s Department responded to a rescue call at “The Stairs,” an area with swift rapids and rocks on the Tule River above Springville.

When deputies arrived, they were told that a 17-year-old boy from the Los Angeles area had gone for a swim in the area when he was swept up by the current. He was stuck in the rapids for about 10-20 minutes before being pulled out by bystanders downstream. The boy was unresponsive and was transported to Sierra View Medical Center in Porterville, where he died from his injuries.

The boy was later identified as Juan Hernandez, 17, of Los Angeles.

As warmer temperatures set in, Sheriff Mike Boudreaux reminds everyone of the dangers lurking in local waterways.

“The water may seem enticing, but it can be incredibly dangerous,” Boudreaux said. “Never enter ‘white water’ and always wear a life jacket.”

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