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Hundreds of rafters navigate the rapids of the mighty Kern River near Kernville, CA every year. The National Park Service suggests water-related accidents are among the most common causes of death in our visited parks, forests and waterways. / Laura Austin File Photo

Two drownings in Kern River Valley

By Laura Austin News Review Staff Writer

Two drowning deaths occurred within 10 days of one another in the Kern River Valley. 

 The first occurred on July 15, when 70 year old Francisco Bustamante Cazares of Adelanto, California was swimming in Lake Isabella. Witnesses observed that he was going under the water and then not resurfacing. 

 He was found on the morning of July 16 at approximately 10:15 AM unresponsive in the lake, near Old Lake Isabella Road Campsite where he was confirmed deceased. 

  A postmortem examination was conducted by the Kern County Coroner and the findings confirmed the cause of death was drowning. The manner of death was deemed an accident.   

   On July 25, a second drowning death occurred.   

 At approximately 7:30 PM the Kern County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue with the assistance of the Bakersfield Fire Department responded to the Kern River near the east end of Hart Park for a report of a distressed subject in the river needing assistance. 

 When Search and Rescue personnel arrived, they learned the subject had gone underwater and had not resurfaced. Search and Rescue personnel immediately deployed rescue boats in the area where the subject was last seen. 

  The search for the subject was eventually suspended due to the darkness and safety reasons. The search resumed the following morning, and the subject’s body was located and recovered near the area of where he was reported missing. 

  The identity of the subject will be released by the Kern County Coroner’s Office on a later date.      

Authorities request if anyone has additional information regarding this investigation (2022-00088143) please contact the Kern County Sheriff’s Office at (661) 861-3110 or Secret Witness at (661) 322-4040.

According to the National Park Service (NPS), water-related accidents are among the most common causes of death in our visited parks, forests and waterways.  

 Many drowning victims were not trying to swim but were simply engaging in activities as innocent as wading, taking photos or playing along the waters edge. 

NPS also states that victims attempting to swim in swift waters overestimate their swimming ability and underestimate river currents. None of these drowning victims suspect that tragedy is about to overwhelm them.

Spring and summer activities often find visitors and their children near rivers and streams, enjoying nature’s serene sounds or cooling sore feet from a long day’s hike. It’s important to understand water safety in and around these tempting waters. What can seem peaceful, warm and shallow can prove to be deceptively cold and easily overwhelm the strongest individuals. Each year, unexpected victims, whether purposefully in the water (boating, swimming, wading or crossing streams) or accidentally in the water (scrambling on rocks or even falling while hiking), find themselves in a water rescue or worse as a recovery situation.