Mom recounts saving toddler from creek, warns of cold-river dangers

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SUMNER, Wash. – Rescue crews have been busy this past weekend dealing with a series of close calls for people getting caught up in fast-moving rivers.

Darci Gillen Dawson recounted her experience last year when saved a toddler that fell into a Montana river. Today she wants to share her story to help convince others about how dangerous our own fast-moving rivers can be.

“There was no sign of life, it was like a doll,” said Dawson.

Standing on a creek bank in July of 2016, Dawson spotted a submerged 18-month-old baby boy. Dawson said instinct took over so she jumped into the river after him.

“I brought him back up on the bank and I just started CPR right away,” she said.

Amazingly the child survived and Dawson said the experience forever changed how she feels about her own kids playing near bodies of water.

“Even when my 12-year-old who swims really well wants to tell me, ‘I’m good I don’t need a life jacket,’ nope,” said Dawson. “If you’re around moving water especially, you’re going to wear your life jacket.”

Our changing seasons has already proven to be deadly on Washington State’s rivers.

Last week divers recovered the body of a 16-year-old boy who disappeared in the Snoqualmie River.

On Monday, Sumner Police said a 46-year-old Tacoma man slipped into the Puyallup River while fishing from the shore with his family.

Neither of the two victims were wearing life vests

“It’s hard to think about what could happen so quickly,” said Carmen Palmer with the city of Sumner.

Palmer said area rivers will continue to be dangerous for the next several weeks for both swimmers and anyone else who might be around the shore.

“Reminder to everyone these rivers are running very high, fast, very cold water,” said Palmer. “It was snowing a week ago, very low in the mountains.”

“You can be an awesome, awesome swimmer but you are no competition for moving water,” said Dawson.

After Dawson’s scare last summer, she said she would rather her kids cool off in a lake or swimming pool where lifeguards help keep watch. But for her family rivers are now off limits.

“Just don’t go in,” she said, “Just don’t go in.”

The Washington State Department of Health said a swimmer’s best chance for survival is to wear a personal flotation device. The agency’s statistics also showed formal swimming lessons for children aged one to four years old can reduce the risk of drowning by 88-percent.

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