ARLINGTON — It was a typical afternoon on the Stillaguamish River in Arlington.
“There was some kind of mishap with the group and the 10-year-old boy was separated from the rest of them, and some thought that maybe he ran into some difficulty at the bend in the river where he may have been sucked under that snag that’s up there,” witness Tim Johnson said.
The 911 call came in at 3:44 p.m. — boy missing in the river, last seen five minutes before.
“It’s cold. It’s moving. Being in moving water without a life jacket is an accident waiting to happen,” Snohomish County sheriff’s Lt. Rodney Rochon said, “and this river is full of snags, various natural debris, logs, rocks, things of that nature that can hinder your abilities to self-rescue as well.”
That brought water-rescue crews to the bank of the river, but it was a sheriff’s office helicopter, Snohawk-1, that first spotted the boy.
“SnoHawk-1 was able to locate the boy in the water submerged about a half mile from our location now and the current was still carrying him downstream,” Rochon said.
Divers went in and pulled the boy from the water. CPR was performed but the boy died a short time later.
Investigators say the boy was not wearing a life vest — and that made all the difference.
The unfortunate fact is most people on the river had no life vest and regulars say that is the norm.
“I haven’t seen any life vests on the river at all,” river rafter Michael King said.
“We’ve said it many times; when you’re in the water, wear a life jacket. Life jackets float. You don’t,” Rochon said.