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Newberg teen drowns on Clackamas River

18-year-old Brandt Hatch recently graduated from NHS

ESTACADA -- A Newberg youth drowned June 30 while attempting to cross the Clackamas River.

Brandt Hatch, 18, had recently graduated from Newberg High School, according to school district officials.SETH GORDON - About 150 people took part in a candlelight vigil for Brandt Hatch July 1 at Joan Austin Elementary School. Memorial services will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday at Northside Community Church. Hatch drowned last week on the Clackamas River while swimming with friends near Milo McIver State Park.

Fire personnel from throughout the area responded to a call at about 5 p.m. Wednesday to a report of a youth who had gone missing while swimming in the river near Milo McIver State Park. Upon arriving, rescuers learned from witnesses that Hatch had attempted to swim across the river with friends; two made it across, while Hatch did not. None of the teens were wearing personal flotation devices (PFDs) at the time of the incident. They were reportedly camping near the scene of the accident.

Rescuers attempted rescue after learning that the youth had been underwater for about 10 minutes, according to a press release. He was discovered some time later, but could not be saved. Fire officials said the frigid temperature of the river could have contributed to the youth’s death.

“We’re all grieving the loss of Brandt Hatch and feel for his family and friends,” said Kyle Laier, NHS principal. “I know the Newberg staff, students and families … will continue to support the family during this difficult time.”

NHS English teacher Gail Grobey described Hatch as quiet with a wry smile and a great sense of humor. The youth took advanced academic classes and was a member of the award-winning NHS robotics team, district officials said.

About 150 people attended a candlelight vigil held July 1 at Joan Austin Elementary School.

The group assembled on the lawn of the school to release green balloons in Hatch’s memory, later raising their lit candles in a somber silence.

Afterward, recent NHS graduate Sage Albright told the crowd he was having a hard time not hating the river for taking his friend, but said instead he would follow Hatch’s example because “I’m not sure Brandt knew the meaning of the word hatred.”

“While perhaps shy at first glance, he achieved such strong and permanent friendships with so many, not because he was willing to withhold his opinions, but because he was willing to express them patiently and respectfully,” Albright said. “It wasn't hard to tell that Brandt was devout in the most serious form of the word, improving himself as an artist, friend, family member and generally spectacular human being. With the drop of every leaf in autumn to the opening of every bud in spring, Brandt sought to change himself for the better. One thing, of course, would never change. Brandt has always been and will always will be the most amiable and companionable person I know. I love you Brandt.”

Mike Hatch, Brandt’s father, then addressed those gathered to express his appreciation for their support.

“To see how many lives Brandt touched, and I know this is just a fraction, I thank you all so much for coming out and showing how much he meant to you,” he said. “You mean the world to us, the community and friendships that we have. I hope that really continues for the rest of all of our lives, that we have this kind of faith in one another and in this community. Thank you so much from all of our family.”

The vigil was organized by the mothers of the boys who had been camping with Hatch and the mothers of his friends on the Aeterna robotics team, along with the current and a past principal of Joan Austin.

“It was short notice, but we didn't want it to be an event,” one of the organizers, Lory Albright, said. “We wanted it to be a celebration of Brandt and that's what it was.”

Services for Hatch will be held at 2 p.m. July 9 at Northside Community Church, 1800 Hoskins St.