Body of missing teen swimmer found in Mariposa

The body of Ronnie Cole, 19 of Mariposa, has been found, and was reported by the Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office on Monday.
The body of Ronnie Cole, 19 of Mariposa, has been found, and was reported by the Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office on Monday. Submitted photo

The body of a teenager who disappeared after jumping into the Merced River in Mariposa late last month has been recovered, the Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office reported Monday afternoon.

Ronnie Cole, 19, went missing June 23. On July 1, the county’s emergency dispatch center received a 911 call from a person reporting they’d found what looked like a body in the water near the Bagby Recreation Area of Lake McClure.

Using information from that call, units from the Mariposa County Boating Division, detectives, and search and rescue personnel responded to the area and located Cole’s body, sheriff’s officials reported. He was about three miles upriver from the recreation area, and eight miles down river from where he was last seen.

The sheriff’s office thanked all who assisted in searching for Cole, and asked the public to be aware of the dangerous conditions in rivers and streams due to extended snow melt.

Online, many began to pour out their condolences for Cole and his family.

Chaotic currents

Raging waterways across the Mountain Area and Valley have proven to be a challenge for first responders this year.

Also on Monday, the Merced Sun-Star reported that four women were rescued after they got stranded on rafts in the Merced River near Snelling.

On June 18, 18-year-old Matthew Salah of Palo Alto suffered moderate injuries to his ankle when he was thrown over two waterfalls at Bass Lake’s Angel Falls. Joseph Wilder, a sergeant with the Madera County Sheriff’s Office who oversees its Search and Rescue Team, said the best way to stay safe this summer is to avoid any swift moving water.

“Stay out of the water, it’s as simple as that,” Wilder said, adding Angel Falls is responsible for 85% of the county’s rescue incidents. “With flows the way they are, and with the low temperature in the water, it doesn’t take long for a dangerous situation to turn deadly.”

Many of those fatal incidents have happened in the Valley. On July 1, the Fresno Bee reported a 22-year-old man from Los Angeles jumped into the Kern River and drowned. At least seven people have drowned in the Kern River this year. From reports in late May, at least six people have drowned in Tulare County, and three in Fresno County so far this year.

No swift water drownings have yet been reported in Madera County this year.