Boy Pulled from the River Dies

Boy Pulled from the River Dies »Play Video
PASCO -- KEPR Action News has confirmed the death of the boy pulled from the water at Wade Park Tuesday afternoon. We also learned his name is Cameron Hartwell.

Cameron was going to be a fifth grader at Mark Twain Elementary this fall. The Pasco School District sent out a press release about him, expressing condolences.

A nurse at Sacred Heart in Spokane told us Cameron Hartwell was critical through the night, but did not survive after spending 30-minutes under water. He was taken to Sacred Heart on Tuesday, after first being taken to Lourdes Hospital in an ambulance.

The Spokane Medical Examiner says he will now interview witnesses for a routine investigation for the facts of what happened.

As Action News gathered new information Wednesday, we wanted to look into the dangers of milfoil. The underwater weed was something officials at the scene mentioned as a possible culprit for the boy’s disappearance into the water.

Captain Dave Hare with the Pasco Fire Department mentioned it just after the boy was pulled out.

"From what I understand, they were just out there swimming and they were coming back to shore and they just got stuck out there in the seaweed or milfoil there,” said Hare.

The diver who found the boy, Francis Buck, also mentioned it on scene. He’s with Columbia Basin Dive Rescue.

"It's fairly deep. There's a little channel that goes through there and, of course, it's heavy with milfoil,” said Buck.

But a day later, we dug deeper and learned the milfoil itself isn’t dangerous. But what is dangerous is how people react to it. Columbia Basin Dive Rescue says people often panic with the feeling that the weeds are wound around them, but they can easily break free. Other times cold water or fatigue sets in, having nothing to do with milfoil.

Mark Allen with Boating and Water Safety went into the water at Wade Park Wednesday with an underwater camera to show Action News the milfoil in the water. He worked for Columbia Basin Dive Rescue for more than twenty years.

"Milfoil doesn't pull you under. It's not like quicksand. It breaks loose real easy,” said Allen.

In Allen’s demonstration, we saw the milfoil wasn’t very thick or long.

"I had to dive down to get into this stuff, to get tangled in it. And I never got fully entangled in it,” said Allen

In talking to Franklin County Coroner Dan Blasdel, we learned he was listening to the scanner when the call to help Cameron Hartwell went out Tuesday afternoon. He was expecting to get called because of how long the boy had been under water, about thirty minutes. But he was very relieved when he heard Cameron was alive.

Unfortunately, Cameron did not survive past Wednesday morning.

Blasdel talked to Action News before Sacred Heart told us Cameron was dead. He emphasized people should always wear life jackets in the river, especially children.

"I've never pulled a dead body out of the water that was wearing a life jacket. Ever,” said Blasdel.

Officials also say the boy was wearing heavy clothing and boots and this might have pulled him down as well.

Experts recommend you make a water plan, just like you would a fire escape plan. Also, know your true swimming ability, wear a life jacket, and always swim with a buddy who can call for help. Emergency workers tell Action News the shore always seems closer than it is, and that fatigue and panic can set in quickly, even if you think you’re a great swimmer.