WEST SALEM — Searchers found the body of a 5-year-old boy missing since Friday from Wallace Marine Park in West Salem.
His body was found near Wheatland Ferry Monday at about 1:40 p.m., according to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office. He was about 13 miles down river from where he was last seen.
The boy, Allen “Chaz” Pearson, was last seen playing near the old boat ramp and pedestrian bridge at the park.
Authorities believe he drowned in the Willamette River, according to a news release from the sheriff’s office.
“The Polk County District Attorney and the Polk County medical examiner both responded to the scene, and the investigation is being treated as a drowning,” stated a news release from the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.
Emergency workers responded to a report of a missing 5-year-old boy at 5:45 p.m. on Friday. The Polk County Sheriff’s Office and Salem Police Department responded to the call and were soon joined by several agencies in the search for Allen.
Sheriff Mark Garton said several people saw him playing near a pool created by a gravel bar in the river adjacent to the pedestrian bridge crossing from Wallace Marine Park to the river front park area.
“Nobody saw him in the water. Several people saw him right next to the water,” Garton said. “He taken off his shoes and shirt that was right in the same place people saw. He also had goggles so he was wanting to swim.”
Garton said even though the river is lower, that doesn’t mean it is safer or much warmer than it was a few months ago.
“In the 60s and it might seem refreshing. It is a shock for your body,” Garton said. “You can’t use your arms and legs like you need to.”
Garton noted that while the water close to the shore near the gravel bar is shallow, the water on the other side is deep, and at the pillar of the walking bridge, the currents form a whirlpool.
“The current is going to drive you down,” he said.
He said because of the cold temperatures and currents you can see from the surface, anyone playing in the water needs a life jacket. There has been an effort to place a life jacket station in the park.
“I hope someone does,” Garton said.
Police, fire and search and rescue crews looked for the boy until dark on Friday and continued the search on Saturday and Sunday. Garton thanked the agencies and volunteers who joined the search.
Agencies who helped with the search are: Polk County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue, Polk County Sheriff’s Office Marine Patrol, The American Red Cross, Mountain Wave Search and Rescue, Benton County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue, Yamhill County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue, Yamhill County Sheriff’s Office Marine Patrol, Corvallis Mountain Search and Rescue, Marion County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue, Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office Dive Team, Oregon Army National Guard, Salem Police Department, Salem Fire Department, and the Benton County Sky SAR (civil air patrol).