Officials still searching for missing UCLA graduate Scott Neacato

Correction: The original version of this post contained an error. Minh Tu Quang Nguyen was attempting to cross the river with Scott Neacato.

Tulare County officials are searching for a recent UCLA graduate who went missing after falling into the Kern River in central California a week ago.

Scott Neacato, 22, was attempting to cross the river with Minh Tu Quang Nguyen, 25, when turbulence from the water flipped the raft and submerged both men.

Neacato did not know how to swim, said his friend Hector Vega. Nguyen tried to bring Neacato ashore, but was unable to swim against the strong current, which dragged both men down the river.

The men fell into the water 200 yards away from multiple rapids, according to the Tulare County Sheriff website.

Neacato was on a graduation trip with about 11 other people at the time of the accident. The other members of the group rushed to a nearby business to call the police.

Around 7 p.m., deputies and personnel from the US Forest Service arrived on the scene and began to search for the two men. The search was called off after the sun went down.

The search resumed Tuesday morning with helicopters and a diving rescue team. The search has now been scaled back to hourly searches in the area, according to the sheriff’s department.

Friends and family of the two men arrived on Tuesday to help in the search and rescue mission, including Vega, a fifth-year international development studies student who has known Neacato since the fifth grade.

Vega helped search for Neacato on Tuesday and Wednesday, but had to return to Westwood after two days. Nguyen’s brothers also assisted in the search, Vega said. Neacato’s parents stayed to search for another day.

Vega said the search was complicated because the river falls between the jurisdiction of two separate districts, Tulare County and Kern County, which made it difficult to get information.

Members of the search team put up signs of Neacato in the area, in case people had more information. An official told Vega that Neacato probably didn’t travel more than 200 yards from the point where he went missing, and that he might be stuck under one of the rocks underneath the river.

Neacato graduated from UCLA with a degree in sociology in the spring. Nguyen was not a UCLA student.

The search and rescue mission is still underway. Anyone with more information is asked to call the Tulare County Sheriff at (559) 733-6233.

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