Toddler dies in high, cold WA river

Credit: KING

Toddler dies in high, cold WA river



Posted on May 28, 2011 at 12:25 PM

Updated Saturday, May 28 at 12:26 PM

GREENWATER, Wash. – The law enforcement community is in mourning for two of their own, after the couple's young son died Friday in the cold, rushing waters of the Greenwater River.

The two-year-old boy was swept away by the river around 3 p.m. in the area of National Forest Road 7030 in rural Pierce County. The father found his son's body down river about two hours later after a massive search.

His mother and father are both members of law enforcement. Emergency responders from at least eight different agencies raced to the river to aid in the search.

"They do that for anybody but it hurts a little harder when it's one of your own family," said Deputy Chief Bryan Jeter of the Puyallup Police Department.

Witnesses say mom was at the campsite with the boy and another family. The dad had yet to arrive when the accident happened.

The child reportedly was sitting in a chair near their campsite waiting for lunch. Witnesses say the mother started screaming when her son disappeared.

"[She] came across the road and was just screaming that her little boy was in the water,” said Brandon Poe, who was camping with his family.

Several campers jumped into the water and started searching, but the current was swift and cold.

"He just went by so fast. It was just terrible,” said camper Debbie Nelson.

"The water is absolutely freezing cold. As soon as you stick one finger in it, your heart will pretty much stop,” said Poe.

Pierce County Swiftwater Rescue arrived and combed the water, seeing if the child had been caught on any branches or rocks along the river.

"My husband went under the bridge and that's when he saw the baby's little jacket come down,” said Kristi Poe, who was also helping in the search. “It's a horrible 'what can you do' type of feeling.”

Now, fellow law officers and the campers share the parents’ grief.

"I feel like he's a part of me,” says Kristi Poe. “Never forget.”

The chief declined to say which agencies mom and dad work for.

The Pierce County Sheriff's Department will be heading up the investigation.

The tragedy serves as a reminder to everyone who plans to visit rivers this Memorial Day weekend to be vigilant.

"The water is running a lot harder. It's a lot stronger. It's cold. Even though it doesn't look that deep and that strong, it's just a foot deep and it's moving fast. It can take an adult down and hurt them and they would have a hard time getting out of that river," said sheriff's spokesman Det. Ed Troyer.