The body of a five-year-old boy was pulled from a Bakersfield canal Thursday afternoon after being swept away by the current. The discovery came after a massive search that lasted nearly four hours.
Officials say Dominick Valencia was walking along the edge of the Beardsley Canal with his mother Thursday afternoon when he slipped and fell in. The boy was pulled from the canal about a quarter mile from where he was last seen with his mother. The call came in to law enforcement shortly after 12:00 Thursday afternoon.
"The juvenile's mom reported that they had been walking along the canal bank and that at one point had gotten too close to the edge and had slipped and fallen into the canal and she had seen him go under the water," said Ray Pruitt, Kern County Sheriff's Department.
A Sheriff's Department helicopter was dispatched to scour the area. The Sheriff's Search and Rescue team set up at bridges and crossings along the canal from east of the State Route 99 overpass to 7th Standard Road.
Rescuers threw search hooks into the swift water to drag the bottom of the canal, as divers entered the water looking for any signs of the boy. "The water on the surface of the canal looks relatively calm but the water flow under the surface is generally very swift. Once you fall into a canal it's very difficult to get out," said Pruitt.
By 2:00 p.m. Tuesday, the Sheriff's Department had shut off the canal's main water source, east of Gordon's Ferry on the Kern River. Deputies estimated it would take about four to five hours to drop the water level.
"What we're hoping is that once the water levels go down to a certain point, it will make it much easier for us to see the canal and to search for the boy," explained Pruitt.
Deputies told 17 News the boy lived near the canal on State Road. Investigators were seen interviewing people at N. Loop Apartments. The canal is directly behind the homes. "It's very shocking. They can't find him. It's very scary. I couldn't imagine. I couldn't imagine at all," said Mahrya Rupe.
Around 3:40 p.m., the Sheriff's air support team spotted the boy's body in the canal about a quarter mile from where he was last seen.
The boy's mother was transported to a hospital with minor injuries. The Sheriff's Department would not say if she went into the canal to try and save the boy. The boy's name has not yet been released.