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Remember to stay safe in waterways

by: Carole Archer, River Rescue Technician Scott Campbell supervises while Center for Advanced Learning students, from left to right, Kyle Seymour, Ben Waldo and Kelsey Hinds complete a two-person contact rescue in the Sandy River during a rescue demonstration Wednesday, May 24, at Glenn Otto Community Park in Troutdale. River Rescue Technicians with American Medical Response monitor the beaches at Glenn Otto and High Rocks Park in Clackamas County from Memorial Day through Labor Day each year. For nearly 30 years, these popular swimming holes were notorious for the number of drownings that occurred there each summer. There have been no drownings at Glenn Otto since AMR’s river rescue program was implemented in 1999. The program was made possible in part by support from the Troutdale Booster Club.

When the weather is as brutally hot as it was the past few days, the frigid waters of Oregon rivers and lakes are as inviting as they are treacherous. That combination has brought tragedy in this area on hundreds of occasions. This past weekend was, unfortunately, one of the saddest in recent memory as two Gresham residents lost their lives in the water.

At Roslyn Lake near Sandy, 12-year-old Clara Ascencio drowned Sunday as the result of what should have been a small misjudgment. She and three other girls were swimming when they became exhausted while returning to shore. Boaters were able to rescue her three relatives, but Clara disappeared in the lake's cold waters.

In the other local incident, 40-year-old Edward Wyatt Jr. died Saturday from blunt-force chest trauma when he jumped from a cliff into the Sandy River at Dabney State Park.

Ascencio and Wyatt were two of five Oregonians who lost their lives in area rivers and lakes over the weekend as temperatures soared above 100 degrees. Their deaths are a heart-breaking reminder that the joyous days of summer can turn all too quickly to tragedy.

The sadness is only intensified by the knowledge that such deaths are preventable. Simple measures - wearing life preservers, swimming in supervised areas and not diving or jumping into water - would keep most people safe.

Parents, in particular, will share the pain of the Ascencio family and will want to make sure their own children are aware of the dangers of rivers and lakes. It takes only a brief moment for a child's life to be altered forever. Young people ought to be reminded constantly that the water is not only refreshing, but extremely dangerous.