Simi Valley teen drowns in Yosemite National Park

Ventura County StarMarch 25, 2014 

Waters of the Merced River pass under a stone bridge below Yosemite Falls, Sunday afternoon.

JOHN WALKER — Fresno Bee Staff Photo Buy Photo

A Simi Valley teen died Sunday at Yosemite National Park while helping his family members who were struggling to swim in the Merced River, Yosemite officials said.

Walter Gonzalez, 17, drowned, said Andrea Stewart, assistant coroner for Mariposa County.

The teen's family members were swimming in an area of the river known as Devil's Elbow around 3 p.m. when Gonzalez attempted to help them, said Kari Cobb, a Yosemite spokesperson.

Gonzalez was pulled out of the water by bystanders and pronounced dead at the scene, Cobb said.

"At this time of year the water is higher than normal and cold," Cobb said. Devil's Elbow has some "deep spots" but is a calm part of the Merced River, Cobb said.

There are about one or two drownings per year at Yosemite, depending on water levels and visitation, Cobb said. This incident marks Yosemite's first drowning death of 2014.

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