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  • 24 Oct 2014

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North Marion grad drowns in Molalla River accident

by: MOLALLA PIONEER PHOTO - Andrew Jason Moats,19, formerly of Hubbard and a 2011 graduate of North Marion High School, drowned Sunday afternoon in a Molalla River accident.A 19-year-old Salem man drowned in the Molalla River and his two friends were injured trying to rescue him Sunday afternoon.

The three young men, all in their late teens, were tubing down the river on Sunday, June 30, downstream of the Glen Avon Bridge on Dickey Prairie Road and about a mile upstream of the Dickey Prairie Store outside Molalla, said Fire District paramedic Mike Penunuri.

"They were just having a good time when one apparently was tipped out of his inner tube and got caught in a root ball in the middle of the river,” Penunuri said. “His friends tried desperately to save him, and one became entrapped and nearly drowned.”

The drowning victim was identified as Andrew Jason Moats, formerly of Hubbard and a 2011 graduate of North Marion High School. His friends’ names were not released.

Molalla Fire District spokeswoman Denise Everhart said none of the boys was wearing a life jacket and possibly did not expect rough water in the river, which can seem deceptively smooth and slow in many places.

“They came around a corner into some swift water and became dislodged from their tubes,” Everhart said.

Molalla Fire District was first on the scene at about 2:30 p.m. and transported the two survivors to Willamette Falls Hospital in Oregon City. Everhart said one of the young men had multiple lacerations sustained when struggling free from the underwater tree roots, and both suffered from hyperthermia. The water was a cold 60 degrees Sunday.

“This happens all the time here,” Everhart said. “It’s hot now, and in places the Molalla River looks completely calm, but there are swift spots, undercurrents and eddies — lots of dangers hidden in that water. And a lifejacket is the best protection.”

Clackamas County water rescue divers worked for almost an hour to locate and pull the victim from the water. Lake Oswego Fire, Gladstone Fire, Clackamas Fire District 1 and Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue also responded to the scene.

Everhart said this was the second Molalla River rescue of the day. Earlier Sunday, a toddler was playing in the water at Wagon Wheel Park when she was swept into the river.

“Her family got her out of water, and we helped them get her up the bank,” she said.

The child was treated at the scene.