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Two men drown at swimming hole in western Sierra

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Two men drowned in a swimming hole in the western Sierra on Friday, authorities said.

A passerby called the Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office to report a drowning at God’s Bath in the Tuolumne River canyon shortly before 2 p.m., said Deputy Nicco Sandelin, a spokesman for the sheriff’s office.

Sheriff’s search and rescue and dive teams, aided by a California Highway Patrol helicopter, responded and pulled one man‘s body from the water. A second man‘s body was recovered Saturday morning, Sandelin said.

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Both were pronounced dead at the scene. Their identities were not released pending the notification of their family members.

Authorities had initially thought there were three victims, but after interviewing witnesses, they determined there were two, Sandelin said. Information has been slow to come due to the remote location and lack of cellphone service there, he said.

The swimming hole is along the Clavey River, which is considered one of California’s most remote and wildest waterways. It can be dangerous, particularly in the spring when the river is swollen with snowmelt.

“In the late spring and early summer, you have the snowpack from the higher elevations that’s melting off,” Sandelin said. “It increases the water flow exponentially and it also decreases the temperature of the water significantly. So although the surface may appear nice and calm, the current underneath the surface, the undertow, is moving at a really high rate of speed, making it extremely difficult even for the most experienced swimmers.”

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