Father goes missing after jumping in river to save daughter

MERCED COUNTY -- A search is still underway as deputies continue to look for a man swept away by the Merced River.

Jose Castaneda, 36, went missing on Wednesday. His wife, along with his family and friends, watched desperately as crews surveyed the rushing river.

"The water is very swift moving right. The water is very deep, it's very cold," said Deputy Daryl Allen, Merced County Sheriff's Department.

Deputies said Castaneda and his pregnant wife were swimming at the river near Hagaman Park with their three-year-old daughter when the young girl was quickly pulled away by the current. Her parents rushed to get the child, but they were swept away as well.

Both the three-year-old and expecting mother were saved. However, Castaneda never resurfaced.

Several weeks ago, the Merced County Sheriff's Office announced the river would be closed this year because the water was too dangerous. Deputies also said Hagaman Park was supposed to be closed.

"Nobody is stationed out here so people swimming out here shouldn't be swimming out here," Allen said.

Many of the signs alerting visitors of the dangerous river are damaged and authorities also said there is no one actively patrolling the river itself.

"We'll talk to the county about replacing some signs out here at our major parks," Allen said.

Some park goers said they did not know the river was closed and signs may help. In the meantime, they said the Merced River is something enjoy at a distance.

"We're afraid we might go in and the current is going to pull us," said Ana Valencia, park goer.

Along with the dive team, the department also used air units to find the missing swimmer.

The search is finished for today, it is resuming Friday further down the river to an area of interest.

Another reminder, Hagaman Park is closed.
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