Authorities identify 2 men who died in roaring Kern River over holiday weekend


The Kern County coroner has identified two men who died while rafting in the powerful Kern River over the Memorial Day weekend.

Three people died and at least 24 were rescued in multiple incidents along the river, which is known as the “Killer Kern.” Five more people were rescued from other nearby rivers.

On Monday, authorities found the body of a man who had been rafting with his son, who is between 12 and 14 years old. They were on the Kern River west of Lake Isabella when they were thrown out of their raft by a rapid.


The coroner identified the man as Jose Sequic, 43, of Sylmar.

Sequic entered the river on a raft at the Keysville Boat Launch on Sunday, according to the coroner. He fell into the water after his raft overturned.

Witnesses saw Sequic trying to swim to safety, but he eventually went under water and did not resurface.

His body was found the next morning, about a mile west of the boat launch entrance, authorities said. His cause of death has not yet been determined.

A 44-year-old man who died after falling backward out of an inflatable raft after it was hit by a wave on Saturday was identified by the coroner as Shane Joseph Ornelas, of Buena Park.

Ornelas was riding in a raft, operated by local outfitter Sierra South, that was navigating the Cable Run, a Class IV rapid that is intense and turbulent, said Tulare County Sheriff’s Lt. Kevin Kemmerling.


The accident occurred about five miles north of Kernville, where the river water was 40 degrees, Kemmerling said. Rescuers performed CPR for about 20 minutes; Ornelas was rushed to Kern Valley Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Ornelas, who was wearing a life jacket and wetsuit, was conscious when he was pulled back into the raft, but he then collapsed. The coroner listed his cause of death as hypertrophic heart disease.

Tom Moore, president of Sierra South, said Ornelas was part of a church group and was a last-minute substitute on the trip.

Officials have not yet identified a woman in her 40s whose body was pulled out of the river Sunday in Hart Park. She had been floating on the river with her family a day earlier and fell into the water.

The woman did not know how to swim, Kern County Chief Park Ranger Ron Rice told the Bakersfield Californian. The woman’s family found her body caught in what is called a strainer, an area of brush and debris that can trap a swimmer underwater.

Rong-Gong Lin II contributed to this story.


Twitter: @haileybranson


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