Man describes what it's like to nearly drown in the 'Killer Kern'

Don Paul Josephsen describes getting sucked under in the strong current of the Kern River on Monday, July 10, 2017, in Bakersfield, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX photo)

Don Paul Josephsen summed up his experience getting pulled underwater in the Kern River as a "flash."

Kern County search-and-rescue volunteers pulled him from the dangerous current shortly after 2 p.m. Monday. He said he was wading around the river near the shore when he stuck his arm out, and a current caught him and took him down.

"I just flashed back to all the years I was taught how to swim on the river," Josephsen said. "All that training is gone. The difference is you're not in control of being under the water. It's an unexpected move on your part. That's the difference. So you have a relaxing mind when you're going to come up, but when you're being pulled underwater, you don't know when you're going to come up."

He said he grew up on the river, visiting often with his family. He'd been taught from a young age to "respect the river," but that brought on a new meaning when he found himself in trouble going out alone.

The water carried him downstream, where he made it to the edge and called for help. He'd resurfaced but couldn't move since his legs were pinned under dirt.

"I honestly thought I was going to die today," Josephsen said. "Should you ever be sucked into the river, you should just curl up into a ball, relax and you'll turn up down stream. Today I didn't think about that. I just thought it's going to take me."

Josephsen hoped sharing his experience Monday would encourage others to think twice before venturing into the dangerous currents alone and remind people that no one is safe from the unpredictable waters.

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