Swimmer drowns near Soda Springs | SierraSun.com

Swimmer drowns near Soda Springs

David Bunker
Sierra Sun

A 32-year-old San Francisco woman died in the swift, cold current of the North Fork of the American River near Soda Springs Monday in the first drowning this year in Placer County.

Amy Chamberlain was reportedly swimming with her boyfriend near a waterfall in a section of the river she knew well when a current pulled her underwater.

Her boyfriend alerted nearby residents in the secluded resort of The Cedars and California Department of Forestry officials also responded to the river. But the current had already drowned Chamberlain by the time they were able to pull her from the river.

“The water is running pretty swift and it is cold,” said Placer County Lt. George Malim. “With the water flows what they are, there is a lot of force.”

A heavy snowpack continues to produce cold, fluctuating runoff in rivers throughout the Sierra, said Malim. He suggested that rafters wear life vests and, if they are venturing into whitewater, a helmet.

The fluctuating flows can create odd currents that can be dangerous to even the most experienced swimmer, he said.

“A still body of water is one thing,” he said. “… But a moving body of water, like a river, ups the ante.”

Chamberlain, who was said to be a strong swimmer and accomplished athlete, likely was knocked unconscious underwater by the force of the current, said Malim.

“That just tells you exactly how powerful that water can be,” he said. “Even a strong swimmer can be taken under.”