October 24, 2014

River conditions made recovery of Marshalltown drowning victims difficult

Marshalltown’s police chief says rescuers faced a difficult task trying to find the three children who drowned Wednesday while swimming in the Iowa River near a local park. Rescuers received the call at 6:15 P.M. that three children swimming with others had been separated from the group.

The search and rescue operation ended after two- and-a-half hours with the recovery of all three bodies. Police Chief Michael Tupper says the low river level made the search difficult.

“There were areas where it is quite shallow and then there were areas that it is quite deep. The children got swept into a deeper area of the river unfortunately. That’s where their bodies were ultimately recovered,” He says. Tupper says it was often not possible to use boats in the search.

“Where we could get boat access the river would become too shallow and the boats couldn’t travel to where we needed them for the work,” Tupper explains. “Where we were actually working, the banks were so steep, the terrain was so difficult, that we couldn’t safely carry a boat down to the water.”

Tupper says the different conditions on the river make swimming dangerous for all swimmers. “Even when it looks calm at the surface, there can be undercurrents that can be very dangerous. You just can’t account for that stuff. Even for experienced adult swimmers those undercurrents can be very dangerous, and I’m just cautioning people about being in the river at all, especially with small children,” Tupper says.

The names of the victims — a 7-year-old and 9-year-old girl and a 7-year-old boy — have not been released. This is the second drowning incident involving a child in the Iowa River at Marshalltown in the last two weeks. A 10-year-old-boy died June 18th while swimming in similar river conditions.

Update 10:30:
The names of the victims have been released and are as follows: Nine-year-old Lee Meh and 7-year-old Sae Reh. They are brother and sister. Seven-year-old Thay Mo is a cousin of the other two victims. All are from Marshalltown.

By Lance Renaud, KFJB, Marshalltown