A man in his late 20s was hospitalized after nearly drowning Friday afternoon in the Kings River, which has been closed to recreational use since early June.

Authorities were notified about 1:45 p.m. that a man was in trouble in the river, and that he wasn’t wearing a life jacket.

Authorities were notified about 1:45 p.m. that a man was in trouble in the river, and that he wasn’t wearing a life jacket, said Tony Botti, Fresno County Sheriff’s Office spokesman.

The man reportedly tried to swim across the river near Pine Flat Road Bridge, just below the dam. Halfway across the river, he began to panic and the river’s strong current swept him away, Botti said.

Cal Fire Got to Him First

As he floated downstream, he grabbed a bush and held on, waiting for rescuers to reach him. Deputies responded by vehicle, helicopter, and boat, but it was Cal Fire firefighters who reached him first.

A map provided by the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office shows where a man was rescued Friday from the Kings River, just below Pine Flat Dam.

Firefighters tossed the man throwbags that he grabbed. They pulled him to shore; he was semi-conscious and breathing. A SkyLife helicopter arrived and the air ambulance flew the man to a hospital for treatment.

Authorities closed the Kings River from Pine Flat Dam to the Tulare and Kings county lines because of swift, chilly water from Sierra snowpack runoff. The stretch has been closed to recreational use since June 4. Violators face a minimum fine of $225. Botti said it hadn’t been determined whether the man would be cited.

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