Another young Guatemalan drowns in the Kern River, the deadliest in California

The Kern Canyon River, considered the deadliest river in California, claimed the life of another 21-year-old Guatemalan, when just a week ago it had taken two immigrant boys from Guatemala.

Now family and friends beg him for his donations to face the unexpected tragedy and be able to bury him in Guatemala. For donations, click here on the GoFundMe site, In Memory of Byron López.

Since 1968 when people who drowned in the Kern River began to be counted, more than 300 deaths have been recorded. As of May, the figure reported by the Kern County Sheriff’s Department was 317 people drowned in the Kern River.

Byron Lopez, another Kern River fatality. (Courtesy GoFundMe)

The highest figure was presented in 2017, with 16 deaths; and in 2019, there were 9. But not all the bodies of those who have drowned in the mighty river have been recovered in recent decades. At least 14 have never been found. These numbers only reflect those who have died while partying in the Kern River on the Kern County side, it does not include deaths on the Tulare County side or in Lake Isabella.

Many people go to the Kern River to camp and swim, but the river is unpredictable.

“People need to respect the water. Use life preservers, not pool toys you buy at Walmart, and keep an eye on your kids,” said Sergeant Zack Bittle of the Kern County Sheriff’s Office search and rescue team.

Byron López, a 21-year-old man, met his death on Sunday, July 10, while enjoying the Kern River.

“She was with a family and was playing in the river when another young girl ran out, scared to let them know that Byron had been washed away. She had also been about to die, and they helped her get out of it, but for Byron they could no longer do anything, ”said Pastor Óscar Vázquez of the Christian church. The Lily of the Valley from Pasadena, Calif.

Byron López with one of his friends. (Courtesy GoFundMe)

He says that they immediately called the emergency services for help. “They came in about 15 minutes, and they were explaining what happened when they saw Byron’s body floating by, and that’s how they were able to get him back quickly.”

The pastor estimates that the tragedy occurred around 3 or 4 pm on Sunday, July 10.

In search of a better life, Byron had come to Los Angeles from Guatemala about three years ago. He worked installing hardwood floors.

The pastor says that the boy helped his parents, sending them money for their survival in Guatemala.

“At Lirio de los Valles Church, where Byron faithfully attended, we are saddened by his loss and raising funds to cover his funeral expenses and send his body to Guatemala.”

He said that it is very important that we can help with these expenses since Byron was a young man of only 21 years of age and he had the responsibility of his brother under 18 years of age.

“Apart from her little brother, she only has one aunt in California and we were like her family too. It is a tragedy that was not expected but we trust in God that he will provide and supply to cover the expenses and put his body to rest ”

Some friends described Byron as a good friend, a good brother, a good co-worker, but also a humble and quiet human being.

“Words are not enough to describe my good friend. I was able to have the joy of meeting him and sharing with him many moments inside and outside the Church and at work since he was my co-worker,” said one of them on the GoFundMe page.

Just on July 4, two young indigenous Guatemalans who had come to the United States in search of the American dream found their deaths, also drowned in the Kern Canyon River,

Diego Cobo and Samuel Jacinto Raymundo came with a group of friends who had come to have fun, having no idea that the tragedy was coming.

“As there were 15 of them, they divided into groups, Diego and Samuel left in a group of 6 boys. We don’t know if it was because of the heat, but four of them entered the river, holding hands to protect each other,” said Guadalupe Sifuentes, a friend of the family.

And he related that the boys got into the side that runs the river where the flow drops at high speed.

“The strong current knocked over one of them, and that caused the other three to fall. Two were able to be saved, but Diego and Samuel were literally swallowed by a whirlpool. They say that they only managed to see the fingers of their hands asking for help.”

Diego Cobo and Samuel Jacinto Raymundo drowned in a river in Sequoia National Park. (Courtesy)

The tragedy occurred at noon on Monday, July 4, but it was not until Thursday, July 7, that the bodies of Diego and Samuel were recovered, six or seven miles from where they were swept away by the flow.

Diego was 25 years old, and had emigrated from Guatemala for 11 months; Samuel was 18 years old, and 3 years ago he had come to the country with his father. They both worked in construction and lived in Los Angeles.

Sergeant Zac Boyd of the Kern County Fire Department gave the following tips for safely enjoying the Kern River:

  • Wear a life jacket, even if you sit on a rock and only put your feet in it. Rocks are slippery and can fall into the river
  • Watch your children, do not let them splash around in shallow water
  • Do not try to anchor yourself to the shore with ropes and do not use pool toys
  • If you want to get into the river, go with a trained guide