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Alert Observer Averts Tragedy In River

INDEPENDENCE -- Joshua Millsap and other bystanders pulled two children from the Willamette River on Wednesday during the Western Days celebration at Riverview Park.

INDEPENDENCE -- Joshua Millsap and other bystanders pulled two children from the Willamette River on Wednesday during the Western Days celebration at Riverview Park.

Millsap was working in the Glow Shop booth near the carnival area along the riverfront. He said he heard screaming coming from the river, but like others nearby didn't know if the cries were in distress or play.

It soon became obvious to Millsap that two children in the water were scared and couldn't get back to shore.

"They started getting swept downstream by the current, so I ran down to the bank and jumped in," said Millsap, an Independence resident. "I got the little girl, but the little boy was further away. He floated downstream aways further but some other guys jumped in and pulled him out.

"By the time I pulled the girl out, I was pretty winded. The kids were scared, and their parents weren't anywhere to be to found."

By the time the children were safely back on shore, other bystanders had alerted police.

Sgt. Pete Roy of the Independence Police Dapartment said, "We received a call from one of our officers who was patrolling down there. Someone came up to him and said that two kids had gone into the river, but by the time we got there they were already on shore. They were about 8 and 10 years old."

The parents were found, and no official report was filed. Authorities urge parents to not allow their children to play in or near the water unattended, and to not let their child play in any open body of water (rivers, lakes or the ocean) without a life vest.

According to Safe Kids Worldwide, a child safety advocacy program, drowning is the second leading cause of accidental deaths among children age 14 and under, behind automobile accidents. And it is the leading cause of accidental death among children ages 1 to 4.

About 3,300 fatal drownings are reported in the United States in annually, according to the Center for Disease Control, which keeps statistics for accidental deaths. That averages out to nine people per day.

For every child 14 years and younger who dies from drowning, five receive emergency care for "nonfatal submersions" -- often lead to brain damage and serious physical impairments.

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