The stretch of the Santa Ynez River between the second and third crossings. | Credit: Courtesy Matt Kettmann

A 22-year-old man died at Red Rock on Wednesday afternoon, an apparent drowning in one of the storied pools along the Santa Ynez River inland from the City of Santa Barbara. Few details are available, but County Fire Captain Scott Safechuck said the man was with a group of friends, who realized he was missing as they enjoyed the cool river water on the hot afternoon. He was identified to be Roberto De la Cruz, a Santa Barbara resident, on Thursday morning by the Coroner’s Office.

They found De la Cruz after searching for 45 minutes, Safechuck said, and were on the phone with a 9-1-1 dispatcher as they worked to revive him at around 6 p.m. County firefighters reached the scene and attempted to revive him using advanced life support, but he did not respond. Sheriff’s spokesperson Raquel Zick said the location was the second crossing of the river road, which is a broad stretch of the Santa Ynez River as it winds down Paradise Valley from Gibraltar Dam.

Red Rock, the river pools, and the intricate geological uplift formations along the hiking trail have long made for a favorite camping and play area for Santa Barbarans. The firefighters had been training on ATVs earlier that day, Safechuck said, as the area is inaccessible to emergency vehicles. The paved road to Red Rock was destroyed in January’s storms, and the river pools can currently only be accessed on foot or bicycle, with limited parking for cars.


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