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Navy veteran, aspiring doctor identified as man who drowned saving rafters along river

Family members said Joshua Crane dedicated his life to helping others and weren't surprised that he put his life on the line to help others in need.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Family members said a five-year Navy veteran and aspiring doctor sacrificed his life to save people who were in need along the American River Friday.

"My brother was a humble guy and anybody who knew him knew he had the biggest heart ever imaginable. He would do anything, He'd give you the shirt off his back and just be there," said Jessica Crane, sister of Joshua Crane. "That's something that I knew that he would do. No matter no matter what." 

She said her brother Joshua Crane, 30, drowned after he dove into the American River to help two rafters in need of help. The Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District was ultimately called out for a three-person water rescue, but Joshua didn't make it out of the river. 

Crews eventually found him dead downstream from the San Juan Rapids.

Jessica said her brother had orchestrated a get together at the river with some first-year students from UC Davis. She said the group had gone out tubing along the American River, but some of the students had gotten stuck near the rapids.

"There were two females that were stuck on tubes and my brother was on a paddleboard and they were asking for help. So he jumped off his paddleboard, like he would (to) help anybody, and no hesitation, no questions asked, jumped off his paddleboard and jumped in the water and got them out," Jessica said.

Before he died, Joshua was studying to become a doctor and was expecting to graduate in Spring of 2023, according to his sister.

"That's the biggest thing that gets me is that a great life was cut short. I know he touched a lot of lives, and he made a lot of great friends and people along the way," Jessica said.

Being a veteran, his work took him all over the world, including to Camp Pendleton and even Japan. Jessica said he joined the military right out of high school, trading in his long hair and rock band for a chance to pursue a new dream.

"One day, he cut his hair off and started carrying a backpack with 40 pounds of rocks in it. He'd run every day trying to cut weight and get in shape, so he can join right out of high school when he was 18 years old," she said.

Life took Joshua to Chico State University where he got a degree in biology and pursued an education in medicine at UC Davis.

"He wanted to go into internal medicine, and that was his goal. He lived to serve and help people, and that's who he is in a nutshell," Jessica said.

Since the news came in, the family has been taking things minute by minute and day by day. For Jessica, it was just last week when she was sharing stories, drinks and laughs with her older brother.

"Every minute spent with him was the best smiles and the best time, and he was my best friend, my biggest motivator, my hero... and he proved that in everything that he did," Jessica said.

While Joshua didn't have kids of his own, he did have nephews that meant a lot to him. Jessica's two boys are eight and nine, and as they grow up, she wants them to remember the kind of person their uncle was until the end.

"I always want them to remember that he loved them and he would do anything for them and anybody else in this world...," she said. "He loved and cared deeply about every every person, if it was a pass in the hallway or if it was a meal plan or a workout or a study session or anything that anybody needed. He was that phone call away. No hesitation, no questions asked he would be there.

A GoFundMe has been started to help support the family.


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