Three teenagers enjoying the early evening along the Stanislaus River below the Highway 99 bridge said they witnessed a man run behind them chasing a floating football in the river. The teens from Manteca and Lathrop said they saw the man dive into the water for the ball and didn't see him come back up to the surface.
The time was shortly before 6 p.m. Monday and they didn't see anyone playing catch with him upstream. The water was swift and cold when they called 911 and the Ripon Fire Department and its search and rescue squad responded along with the Ripon Police Department.
The fire department boat crew searched downstream to near the City Corporation Yard and swept-back upstream to Highway 99 but were unsuccessful, they reported. The crew went back downstream as other firefighters walked back up along the banks of the river in case the man was able to get out of the river.
The teens said he was about 45 years old and either white or Hispanic.
Salida Fire offered to handle all other emergency calls within the city until off duty Ripon Fire personnel arrived at the station to cover.
Update: April 28, 2020
Ripon Police Department has released the following statement on their social media.
"At 5:24 PM, Ripon Officers responded to the Stanislaus River regarding a male subject who jumped into the river to retrieve a football but was never seen exiting the water.
Consolidated Fire District personnel responded and launched their boat in an effort to assist with the search. Ripon Staff utilized the department’s Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) to fly the river, checking for any evidence of the swimmer. Ripon Officers interviewed witnesses at the scene and searched the banks of the Stanislaus River. The swimmer was not located.
A witness on the beach advised a subject matching the description of the swimmer exited the water and left with his family. At this time, no family members or friends have reported the swimmer as missing."