A 10-year-old boy presumably drowned Friday morning at Modesto Reservoir after he jumped from a paddle boat and disappeared beneath the surface.
He was not wearing a life jacket, according to Sgt. Anthony Bejaran of the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department.
The boy was among four children who were at Baptista Point and were in the boat tethered to the shore, Bejaran said. In all, there were three boys ages 10, 11 and 12 and a 10-year-old girl.
At some point, the children – none of whom was wearing a life jacket – decided to untether the boat so they could go fishing in a cove. Once that happened, the wind and current sent the boat farther out into the reservoir, about 250 yards from the shore, Bejaran estimated.
When family members on the shore saw this, they started yelling at the children to come back. The children jumped out of the boat, and family members used an inflatable air mattress to swim out to the children. They reached three of them.
The Sheriff’s Department received the call at 11:49 a.m. and throughout the early afternoon used several boats and a helicopter to search for the child, who was described as 4 feet tall and weighing 100 pounds. He was wearing a blue shirt and orange shorts.
By about 3 p.m., the search had turned into a recovery effort. By 8 p.m., authorities ended the search and planned to resume on Saturday at 9 a.m.
Several agencies were on scene conducting the search as family members waited on the shore. The Sheriff’s Department used two boats, two Jet Skis and a drone for which it had just received Federal Aviation Administration permission Friday morning. Searchers waded near an island where the water was too shallow for the boats. There were 13 members of the county dive team.
A chaplain responded to the scene; the family asked for privacy. There was no immediate word on where the family was from.
The water in the area where the boy disappeared was about 14 feet deep and about 67 degrees. Visibility was about 6 inches, Bejaran said.
“It’s absolutely heartbreaking,” Bejaran said. “Not only for the family, but most of our sheriff’s office employees have families and it’s tough on them, too.
“They want to bring the family member home. There’s a lot of pressure on them, too. It can be emotionally draining at times because they don’t want to get out of the water.”
In May, two Oakland teenagers, neither of whom was wearing a life jacket, drowned in Woodward Reservoir.
Bejaran implored those visiting reservoirs and lakes to be mindful of the water’s danger.
“We can’t stress enough that when you’re out on the water, please, please, please wear your life jacket,” he said. “Unfortunately, we have to do these two to three times a year, minimum.”