A couple of weeks ago a father and his son lost their life after getting swept away by the Whitewater River. Now, Coachella Valley residents are wondering why there aren’t signs warning people of the dangers of the river. NBC Palm Springs looked into it and found that the answer is far from simple. Our team went out in search of signs and found that there are several of them out there, but none of them warm people about the dangers of the raging river.
Whitewater is a river that, at first glance looks harmless, but as Captain David Hudson from the CALfire Riverside County Indio Station 86 tells NBC Palm Springs, it is quite the opposite.
“That water there is extremely deceptive water is moving super fast, people tend to go in to stay cool but the problem is they lose their footing, they get swept away and there’s not a whole lot of options for them to get out,” he said.
In fact it’s claimed the lives of many visitors. Recently those of a father and son who got tangled in the raging rapids.
Longtime Venice Beach resident Jason Pennywell says, he knows the dangers of this river all too well.
“It looks so pleasant and inviting, but once you get in there, it’s a completely different story.”
So why do people continue to go swimming if signs a signs are posted alongside of the river?
Well, although there’s sign, after sign, after sign…most of them warn people of fire danger and none explicitly tell people of the dangers of the river (or encourage them not to go swimming).
“It’s not very clear or it doesn’t stipulate actually do not swim or do not enter into the river,” adds Jason.
NBC Palm Springs spoke to the Coachella Valley Water District, who’s responsible for putting up these signs that read “trespassing and loitering forbidden by law.” They say it’s unclear why these signs were put up in the first place. However, they claim that this land is under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Land Management and they, thus, they would be the ones responsible for putting up signage.
For now, onlookers and visitors must be careful and as Jason says…
“Proceed with caution, with extreme caution as .this is a drowning area potential.”
Now, these are just mere suggestions that this tourist has for folks visiting the Whitewater area. He also says there is one thing the Bureau should have in mind when making signs.
“We are living in a diverse community so there should be both in English and in Spanish, do not enter, this is dangerous, proceed with caution.”
NBC Palm Springs called the Bureau of Land Management several times to get more insight regarding what could be done to make this a safer place for onlookers, but they have yet to get back to us. Visitors should note that violators risk a fine of up to $1,000, a prison sentence of up to a year or a combination of the two.