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Search for missing Arroyo Grande man continues at Kern River

Derrick Rush
Derrick Rush

Derrick Rush of Arroyo Grande headed up to a campsite on the Kern River on July 6 to spend a long weekend with family and friends.

Today, some of those same family and friends are starting their fifth day of searching for Rush, who went missing Friday afternoon while floating on the river.

Others are organizing efforts to take supplies to the searchers and carpool more people up to Kernville, about 50 miles northeast of Bakersfield, to help find Rush, a 28-year-old Arroyo Grande High School graduate and a correctional officer at California Men’s Colony since March 2006.

Rush is also the father of two daughters, ages 10 and 6. He played football in high school — always wearing No. 23 — has served as assistant coach at Arroyo Grande High and played on a team with some of his co-workers, said his sister, Diana Ricker-Pritchard.

“We have to be hopeful that he’s out there waiting for someone to find him,” said Ricker-Pritchard, 32, of Arroyo Grande. She described Rush as a great person who maintains a “tough-guy persona but has a really sweet side a lot of people don’t get to see.”

A Tulare County sheriff’s spokeswoman told The Fresno Bee that Rush was near the Whiteside campground on the upper Kern River when he fell off an inner tube about 2:30 p.m. Friday. The campsite is unmarked and located south of Corral Creek.

The swift-running river water was about 50 degrees and Rush did not have cold water gear, a helmet or a life jacket, the spokeswoman said.

Ricker-Pritchard said the group was floating on a calmer spot of the river in what she described as raft-style boats. Family members aren’t sure how Rush ended up in the water; another sister on the camping trip told Ricker-Pritchard she last saw her brother holding onto a branch.

“We don’t know if he fell in or jumped in or what at this point,” she said.

Another one of Rush’s friends also ended up in the water but was pulled to safety, she said.

“We’re asking anyone (who can) to go out there,” Ricker-Pritchard said. “Some people are bringing supplies and people can’t afford to do that are just praying, and that’s all we’re asking for.”

HOW TO HELP

  • A Facebook page (“FindingDerrickRush”) has been set up with updates about the search and contact information. Volunteers are searching from a campsite about eight miles north of Kernville — a neon-green sign has been posted in that location — south to Lake Isabella.
  • Supplies are needed including water, bug spray, socks, sunscreen, snacks and first aid materials. They can be dropped off during normal business hours to Five Cities Security, 11549 Los Osos Valley Road, Suite 204, in San Luis Obispo; or to 400 S. Elm St., No. C10, in Arroyo Grande.
  • Family members are also asking any expert river rafters or kayakers with their own equipment to help the search efforts.
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