The Whitewater River is a main source of water to the Coachella Valley. It’s a lifeline to those who call the desert home, and while it may look inviting when temperatures rise, experts say it’s deadly.
“That water there is extremely deceptive water is moving super fast, people tend to go in to stay cool but the problem is they loose their footing, they get swept away and there’s not a whole lot of options for them to get out,” says Captain David Hudson, with Cal Fire Riverside County Fire Department, Indio Station 86.
Despite signs being posted everywhere you look that it’s off limits. We saw first hand people don’t heed the warnings.
“You need to get out of there, we just had somebody killed yesterday,” yells Cal Fire Riverside Captain Fernando Herrera to a couple near the water.
Hudson says they have specialized equipment and a swift water rescue teams trained and ready to respond to rescues on the water but the odds are stacked against you the minute you hit the water for many reasons.
“From that location to anywhere around there the closest fire station is probably 15 – 20 minutes away … to be in the water for 15 minutes basically fighting for your life is a long time,” says Hudson adding that on top of that there are few entry points for the fire vehicles and once they get there they still need to get their gear in place and find the people downstream.
Add to that the speed of the water and what’s hidden underneath.
“As soon as they enter the water they’re going to encounter these rocks they’re going to receive some massive trauma not only to their body but their head immediately you will pass out and you will start floating down the river,” says Herrera pointing to large boulders on the edge of the river.
The river is full year round. The water district releases more water from pumps to meet demand.
“So at any given time during the year there may be some water that’s released and you’ll have the whitewater rapids come through here,” says Herrera.
Bottom line, Herrera says taking a dip in the whitewater river is not worth your life, “No matter how big you are, how strong you are the force that the water has will take you down.”