Fresno County man drowns while clam hunting in Kings County

A Fresno County man reportedly drowned while hunting for clams in a Kings County canal on Wednesday.

The man was identified Thursday as Celso Ortega, 28, of Laton.

The Kings County Sheriff’s Office said Ortega was last seen by friends around 4 p.m. Wednesday, who told authorities Ortega slipped under the water and disappeared while clam hunting in the area of 20 1/2 and Utica avenues, east of Highway 5 and southeast of Kettleman City.

“Due to the length of time Ortega was submerged it is believed that he was the victim of an accidental drowning,” the sheriff’s office said. “At this time all information suggests that the drowning was accidental with no foul play suspected.”

Witnesses at the scene told authorities that they saw Ortega in distress in the canal and that a friend tried to help him out of the water, but after losing their grip, lost sight of Ortega, who then disappeared under water.

A water rescue unit was dispatched to the scene around 4:30 p.m. Divers from the sheriff’s office found Ortega’s body around 7 p.m.

His body was transported to the Kings County Sheriff’s Office morgue. His autopsy, and official cause of death, is pending.

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Carmen George is a features and news reporter for The Fresno Bee. Her stories have been recognized with Best of the West, George F. Gruner, and McClatchy President’s awards, and nine first or second place awards from the California News Publishers Association. She has a passion for sharing people’s stories to highlight issues and promote greater understanding.