A 22-year-old man drowned in the Molalla River near Community Park Saturday afternoon, the Canby Fire District has confirmed.
His family later identified the man as Melchor Felícitos Abraham, a Mexican immigrant who had come to work in the United States to help relatives back home.
Canby Fire Paramedics Division Chief Matt Dale said they received a number of 911 calls reporting a swimmer who had gone underwater.
Photos and cellphone videos purportedly depicting the incident were also posted online and in local Facebook groups.
First responders arrived on scene, pulled Felícitos Abraham from the water and immediately began life-saving efforts — but they were unsuccessful.
“He was found submerged, underwater, very near the area he was last seen by witnesses,” Dale said, explaining the location was about a quarter-mile upriver from the boat ramp at Community Park.
The victim’s body was recovered by the Clackamas County Water Rescue Consortium, which included divers from the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office, Clackamas Fire, Lake Oswego Fire and Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue.
Dale said a little-known hazard that exists in that part of the Molalla River are unexpected deep places — or “holes” — that can surprise swimmers wading through otherwise shallow water.
Dale speculated that one of these holes may have been involved in this incident.
“One of the problems with this part of the river is that a lot of it is shallow, but there are these deep holes in the riverbed,” he said. “Those can sometimes catch people off-guard.”
Felícitos Abraham was not wearing a life jacket.
A GoFundMe campaign has been set up to assist his family with funeral expenses and the cost of returning his body back home to Mexico.
Sadly, this wasn’t the first time someone has drowned at Community Park.
Skyler Thomas, an 11-year-old boy from Newberg, drowned there in August 2016 while playing in the water with his family. Authorities at the time said he wasn’t wearing a life jacket and didn’t know how to swim.
After his death, many in the community donated life jackets to Canby Fire and set up kiosks at Community Park that still stand today.
Canby Fire reminds to always wear a life jacket near the water if you are not a swimmer, and use the life jacket kiosk at the park if you do not have your own.
Use the buddy system on the river and be aware of your location and proximity to the park in case you find yourself or a loved one in need of rescue.
“The river temperature is too cold to swim in right now,” Canby Fire Division Chief Matt English advised. “Your body can go into shock and limit your ability to move, causing you to drown.”
Always keep your loved ones and family within sight on the river, and also be mindful of others who appear like they might need assistance.
“Please refrain from consuming anything that may impair your judgment or ability to assist anyone in the case of an emergency,” English said.
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