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The bodies of a young Santa Rosa man and a teenager from Texas on vacation were pulled from the Russian River in separate incidents over the weekend. They were the first and second to drown this summer season in the waters where thousands gather each year to splash, swim and escape the heat.

On Saturday afternoon, Edgar Mejia, 23, of Santa Rosa squeezed into a kayak with his brother, although the vessel was only built for one paddler, and it capsized, Sonoma County sheriff’s officials said. Mejia had no life jacket and his family told authorities he didn’t know how to swim. Still, he entered the water alongside hundreds of other summertime revelers at the beach at Casini Ranch Family Campground on a wide and slow stretch of the river near its confluence with Austin Creek.

The next day, Jaime Ticas, 17, a Texas boy visiting his relatives, was swimming off a dock at the Guerneville Lodge but stayed behind when the group decided to swim further upstream, a sheriff’s spokeswoman said. He was gone when they returned but his sandals and wallet remained on shore. A crew with an underwater camera with the Russian River Fire Protection District eventually found his body in about 10 feet of water about 40 feet from shore, the Sheriff’s Office said.

“I’m devastated,” said lodge owner Al Cooper. “That boy came here and didn’t leave.”

Drownings along the Russian River, which cuts a winding path through the heart of Sonoma County on its way to the Pacific Ocean, have decreased in recent years following an effort by the county’s regional parks department, firefighters and the Sheriff’s Office to provide swim and safety programs with lessons, free life vests and warnings.

Twenty-nine people have drowned in the Russian River while swimming, wading and playing in the water since 2000, according to Press Democrat archives. No one was reported to have drowned under such circumstances last year.

The river will continue to be a big draw this week as warmer weather returns.

On Saturday, the beaches at Casini Ranch near Duncans Mills were packed with people lounging on beach blankets, picnicking under tents and families splashing in the water. All the ranch’s 225 camp sites were booked and the day use lot was full by 10 a.m., general manager Alan Ginos said.

Mejia arrived with a family group of about a dozen people Saturday morning to spend the day. They brought a kayak.

Playing in the water nearby, Rudi Skowronski, 15, of Alameda said he saw a man running down the beach and heard him yelling but was not sure what he was saying.

“He came back with a floaty tube around his waist,” Skowronski said. “That’s when I realized there was something going on.”

The man was shouting for others to call 911.

Skowronski joined a cadre of people in the water looking for Mejia. The river at the ranch’s main beach remains shallow for perhaps 50 feet before a drop-off near the opposite bank. Skowronski said he was bringing Mejia’s kayak to shore when others in the search pulled the man’s body from the deep section of the river.

Although cellphone coverage is spotty in the area, someone placed a 911 call at about 4 p.m. A sheriff’s deputy happened to be at the ranch already checking into a prank 911 call from a pay phone and quickly took over CPR from bystanders, Ginos said.

The effort to revive the man unfolded before hundreds of people who had gathered at the beach, including Ines Farris, 47, of Redwood City.

“It shocked me when I saw them carrying the man out of the water,” Farris said. “A woman was blowing into his mouth and someone else was pumping on his chest, so hard. They tried for so long, they kept trading off.”

But the man could not be revived. Firefighters pronounced him dead at 4:37 p.m.

A woman with a young child in Mejia’s group was “inconsolable,” and wailed on the shore, Farris said.

“It is so sad, especially because he was so young,” Farris said.

Sheriff’s officials said Mejia had reportedly been drinking, although it wasn’t known if that contributed to his drowning.

Many of the beach goers packed up their tents and blankets and left, Farris said.

That night, staff held a moment for the family at the campgrounds regular Saturday night bonfire for all the campers.

“It was a subdued night and bonfire on Saturday,” Ginos said. “People weren’t hard to put to bed.”

Less than 24 hours later, Ticas’ family arrived at Guerneville Lodge east of the town on River Road near Highway 116. Ticas was visiting his aunt and uncle who live in Antioch and had come with a group of relatives to the river, said Cooper, the lodge owner. They planned to stay that night at one of the lodge’s 12 campsites.

Nick Houchin had just checked into the lodge with his family when he saw the boy’s family beginning to look for him. At first, the search wasn’t particularly frantic, he said.

“We were thinking he’s a 17-year-old boy, there’s lots of half-naked women around, there’s no telling where he went,” Houchin said. “It was surreal, at first everyone was giggling and saying he’s probably in the boat with a girl.”

But when they did not find him, Houchin said he encouraged the family to call 911, which they did. Cooper also said he told the family to call authorities.

Ticas’ family and friends said they swam upstream, leaving behind Ticas, who was reportedly a good swimmer, Sheriff’s Sgt. Cecile Focha said. They couldn’t find him when they returned after about two hours. People who passed through the area in boats, canoes, rafts and on paddle boards during that time did not report seeing anything alarming, she said.

Monte Rio Fire Chief Steve Baxman and Russian River fire crews launched two boats and a CHP helicopter searched the water and shoreline from the air. Once the underwater camera found the boy’s body near the river bank opposite the lodge’s dock, three bystanders jumped into the water to help retrieve him.

Houchin said the water was deep and wide in that part of the river.

“I know I’m a very good swimmer, and while it wasn’t exactly hard to get across, I could see where someone could have gotten into trouble,” he said.

Cooper said he is now considering posting a warning sign about river safety on the dock and possibly hiring a lifeguard for the weekends.

In an effort to further address the drownings, county parks last year created the Russian River Water Safety Patrol, where park rangers and open water lifeguards are stationed at popular beaches to educate the public about water safety, loan out life jackets and make rescues. Lifeguards made 17 rescues and nobody drowned in 2013.

Monte Rio Fire Chief Steve Baxman said that more people than ever, mainly families, are visiting the river and encouraged them to be cautious.

Shortly after the teen was reported missing, a call came in that two kayakers had capsized at the mouth of the Russian River near Jenner. But they were wearing life jackets and were able to easily swim ashore, something that happens all the time, Baxman said.

“If you want to swim, wear a life jacket and always swim in pairs,” he said.

Staff Writer Jamie Hansen contributed to this report. You can reach Staff Writer Julie Johnson at 521-5220 or julie.johnson@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @jjreport.

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