coming back alive
Swollen Creek Swallows Teens

Todd, 15, along with Jacob Befurt, 14, were swept into the rushing water near Albas Provincial Park Aug. 9.

Both boys were swimming near the top of a 15-metre waterfall with four other friends when one of the teens lost his footing and slipped. Another teen attempted to help and both were swept downstream.

The search for Todd Campbell came to an end after a dive team located the boy's body in Celista Creek. Todd was found wedged under some rocks above a waterfall. The water had carried the boy over two sets of waterfalls and he was found above the third.

Jacob's body was found a week earlier when RCMP officials called off the search for Todd's body, saying conditions were too treacherous for divers.

Two teams of 20 search officials as well as several volunteers had been looking for the two teens. The Kamloops RCMP helicopter was also hunting by air.

Const. Mark Skotnicki said the Vernon Swift Water Rescue team specializes in moving water searches and are trained to work in the dangerous conditions caused by fast-flowing water with swift back eddies.

He said although the boys were only wearing swimsuits, everyone had still hoped for a positive outcome.

The RCMP and Search and Rescue members scanned the creek bottom with dive equipment and poles from the mouth of Celista Creek on the Seymour Arm of the Shuswap Lake to the base of the falls.

Skotnicki said high water played a part in the accident. "High water was definitely a factor," he said. "Just before the accident there was an intense rain storm in the area and people from the area said the creek was a lot higher than usual."

Local residents said the area where the teens were swimming was not safe especially when the water is as swift as it was Monday."In the area where the accident occurred, the water has a great intensity and force," said Skotnicki.

It is important to stay clear of any bodies of water after a storm. River banks and shores begin to overflow presenting immense danger for the unsuspecting victim.

The Banks of Celista Creek are surrounded by other bodies of water in British Columbia.
Alive and Well After a Close Call

An 11-year-old Lawrence boy is alive and well this afternoon, after slipping into a swollen creek and getting trapped in a drainage culvert during intense flash flooding in western Lawrence.

A heavy downpour brought more than 5 inches of rain this morning to parts of Lawrence, flooding several intersections, slowing traffic and stalling vehicles attempting to drive through high water.

But as the afternoon began, a call to help three boys in west Lawrence -- one who was unaccounted for -- sent emergency crews scrambling.

Elliott Johnson had been watching the rising floodwater rushing down a creek that cuts through a golf course with two friends when he slid into the cascading water, said his father, Mark Johnson.

Elliott had been sucked into a culvert, where the water had risen up to his shoulders. One of the boys had stayed behind to keep Elliott's head above water, while another had gone for help.

Then Mark Johnson found himself waist-deep in the water. "One of the boys' dads and I just started pulling on him," Mark Johnson said, as his son received medical attention Friday afternoon on Wellington Court. "I just kept pulling on him, and he kept pulling against me. He just said his pants -- his rain suit had filled up. That just made it harder."

For his dad, it seemed like an eternity.

Elliott turned out to be OK, his father said. The other boys were fine, too. "The medics are giving him a once over," Mark Johnson said. "He's fine."

Emergency crews set up an area to work as they searched for a man and woman who drowned after rescuing two children from Coyote Creek at Parkway Lakes, in San Jose.
Flash Flooding: Danger in Seconds
  • Flash floods occur when excessive water fills normally dry creeks or riverbeds along with fast flowing creeks and rivers, causing rapid rises of water in a short amount of time.

  • Flash flood waters can move at a very rapid speeds. They have the power to move boulders, tear out trees, destroy buildings, and obliterate bridges.

  • Walls of water can reach heights of 10 to 20 feet or more, and generally carry a huge amount of debris with them.

  • Flash floods are the number one thunderstorm-related killer in the United States.
Rescue Ends in Deaths

SAN JOSE - A family fishing trip ended in tragedy after a father of two children and a family friend drowned while trying to save the youngsters at Coyote Creek at Parkway Lakes north of Metcalf Road. They were all San Jose residents.

The youngsters, a 12-year-old boy and a 9-year-old girl, were playing in the knee-deep water when they encountered a slippery spot on the silt-covered creekbed at about 1:30 p.m., and fell into the creek.

Their father, John McCarthy, 46, and friends, Norma Mantez, 22, and her fiancé, were fishing on the banks of the creek in south San Jose just west of U.S. 101, said San Jose Police Department Public Information Officer Gina Tepoorten.

McCarthy and Mantez jumped into the slow-moving stream to save the children. The two adults never came out of the water. Currents from Coyote Creek, although only several feet deep, apparently dragged the children southward toward the fishing lake, Tepoorten said, prompting the father and his friend to help the children.

McCarthy and Mantez were able to reach the children and push them to shore, where the woman's fiancé pulled the children safely out of the water.

While the children were saved, the current was too strong for the two adults to stop themselves from being taken under and swept into the lake, Tepoorten said.

"The adults were seen going into the water and weren't seen after that," Tepoorten reported. Tepoorten said both adults could swim, although Mantez was not a strong swimmer.

San Jose Fire Department's swift water rescue team and Sheriffs Office divers recovered the woman's body at 3:30 p.m. about 28 feet from shore in 10 to 15 feet of water. McCarthy's body was found an hour later about 84 feet from shore, also in 10 to 15 feet of water, said Lt. Dale Unger, the Sheriff Department's underwater search unit commander.

Unger said both McCarthy and Mantez were fully clothed. McCarthy was wearing boots. "It was ... a significant factor," Unger said. "It just acts like weights in the water."

The other major factor was the silt on the bottom of the creek bed, Unger said. The children, although in shallow water, had hit a slippery patch and were initially swept away.

Divers had to work through black-out conditions while searching for the bodies.

The children, who were uninjured, were picked up by their mother after she was notified of the tragedy.

Jumping in to save a person who has fallen into a creek will more likely result in two victims rather than two survivors.

To young children, creeks are exciting places to play. Because of this, children are especially vulnerable to the dangers presented by creeks
The Danger
It is the danger that meets you when you are out in the woods
It is the danger that meets you when your children play near a creek.
It is the danger that surprises you as you stroll by the river bank.
Be sure to know where you are going, and when close is too close


How To Spot Danger
Be aware of where you swim!
  • Creeks and lakes hide unexpected danger.

  • Murky water, hidden underwater objects, unexpected drop-offs, and aquatic plant life are hazards.

  • Strong tides, big waves, and currents can turn an event that began as fun into a tragedy.

  • Stay clear of lakes and creeks after storms.

After heavy rainfall a creek may go from safe to dangerous, very quickl
Toby Creek Tragedy

Rambunctious and active. Kind and caring. He loved bicycling and skateboarding.That's how family members described Bradley Okraszewski, whose body was found under a submerged snarl of wood in Toby Creek.

Okraszewski, 12, of Kingston, was found in about 3 1/2 feet of water, near a large culvert after an extensive search that stretched over two days. The area was described by several local officials as a popular area where swimming is prohibited but common.

Okraszewski, called Brad by his friends and family, was bicycling with three friends Tuesday in the early evening when he and another boy decided to take a dip in the creek in Pringle. Their companions, two girls, opted not to swim.

According to emergency personnel, the boys found trouble in the swift current of the creek. While the girls managed to help his companion out, Okraszewski was not so lucky.

According to Edwardsville Chief of Rescue Frank Slymock, a search that included about 150 dive and rescue personnel originally focused on the submerged 1 1/4 mile culvert, which carries water from the creek to an Edwardsville pumping station. The search, which began shortly after 8:30 p.m. continued until about 2 a.m. then resumed at first light. Okraszewski's body had been trapped a few feet shy of the tube he was thought to have been caught in.

"I was waiting for him to come home, because he's never so late," father Celedonio Velazquez said Wednesday. "Then the police came and told us what had happened, just before 10 p.m."

Velazquez and Bradley's mother, Sandie Okraszewski Velazquez, accompanied police back to the creek and joined the search. At 2 a.m. they returned home to pass a sleepless evening, and in the morning, Velazquez returned to the creek and the search, guessing by then that they were seeking a body rather than a boy.

The property where the body was recovered is owned by the Army Corps of Engineers and monitored by the Pringle Police Department. Officer Paul Bowman described it as "hard to control, because it's in a remote area. We can't be there every minute." He also said swimmers had repeatedly ripped down warning signs.

Luzerne County Chief Deputy Coroner William Lisman said an autopsy was performed on the boy at noon Wednesday. The cause of death was declared drowning, the manner accidental.

"He didn't even like the water, he was afraid of it, always had been," Velazquez said, puzzled and numb. "It was a new bike, a late birthday present."

Bradley had the bike three weeks. His birthday was June 15. His sister, Cassandra Okraszewski, 22, remembered Bradley as an energetic and sweet boy who loved engines and mechanical contraptions. "He just got a mini-chopper for his birthday, and he loved that kind of stuff."

Bradley completed the sixth grade at Wyoming Valley West Middle School earlier this year. One of his teachers, Debbie Kester, remembered a boy, "so sweet, so pleasant, so easy to be around. His smile will definitely be missed."

Bradley's aunt, Cynthia Okraszewski, said she was always impressed with his mechanical aptitude. "He could take anything apart and put it back together; he was exceptionally bright when it came to working with his hands."

And after the tragedy, both parents remembered the things they had chided him for with the most affection.

"He broke everything, just running around like crazy, but he was just energetic, not bad," Velazquez said.

"I'm going to miss cleaning up after him, picking up his mess," Sandie Okraszewski Velazquez added.

The Raging Torrent Was Too Strong to Overcome

Four camp counselors drowned when one fell into an Adirondack river and the other three tried to save him. They had almost no chance of escaping the raging torrent.

"It's what's called a 'drowning machine,"' forest ranger Fred Larow said Wednesday of the churning water that trapped the young men under a rock ledge.

State police had recovered the bodies of three of the four camp counselor friends. They drowned during a trip to a swimming hole on the rain-swollen Boquet River.

The four teenagers disappeared about 3 p.m. Tuesday beneath the water at Split Rock Falls, a series of waterfalls and pools on the river in Elizabethtown, 110 miles north of Albany.

Authorities recovered one body Tuesday before suspending the search for the night. Using drop cameras on long poles, they located the other three bodies around mid morning Wednesday, all wedged under a ledge in a small pool about 20 feet deep.

With conditions too hazardous to risk putting divers in the water, two officers perched on rocks above the river and used poles to recover the bodies.

"This time of year with this much rain, it's a dangerous place to be," stated State Police Capt. Bruce Dunning. "It's completely white water today."

The four teens had been among about 20 counselors from Camp Baco in Minerva who were spending their day off at Split Rock Falls, said Don Jaquish of Essex County emergency services.

"The force of the water cannot be underestimated," Forest Ranger Ed Russell said.

The teens were identified as Jonah Richman, 18, Adam Cohen, 19, and Jordan Satin, 19, all of Woodmere, New York; and David Altschuler, 18, of Philadelphia.

Richman, Cohen and Satin, all college students, graduated last year from George W. Hewlett High School. Richman and Cohen had been co-captains of the swim team and were considered strong swimmers, but officials said the current was far too strong.

"These were fine young men, good friends and the fact that they risked and lost their own lives to save another is totally consistent with the students our staff knew and respected," said school district superintendent Charles Fowler.

Russell said accidents are not uncommon at Split Rock Falls, where ledges jut out high over rock-bottom pools.

Camp owner Bob Wortman released a statement saying: "This is a very sad day for everyone at Camp Baco. These counselors were part of our family and we are all devastated by this loss."

Mimico Creek: Danger in the City

A tragic discovery ended a frantic 24-hour search. A boy's body had travelled 5 km downstream.

Smiling 7-year-old Rober Fordjour Jr., drowned in Mimico Creek August 1, 2004.

A 1.5-metre fence proved no match for a young boy's curiosity when 7-year-old Robert Fordjour Jr. - known to friends as Junior - somehow got past one near his Etobicoke apartment building and slipped into Mimico Creek, its rain-swollen waters rushing by at 20 km/h.

A day after a massive search began, his body was found under a bridge at Dundas St. W. and Islington Ave. - 5 kilometres downstream. 100 people participated in the search, including police, fire and volunteer search teams, Durham police and local residents.

It was estimated that heavy runoff produced by recent rains was moving at 20 km/h, creating a flow similar to white-water rapids.

A day of dry weather dropped the level a bit, but the search was slow as marine teams had to deal with murky water, slippery terrain and thick brush as they went over every inch of the stream's bed.

Fire crews were assigned to search the Islington Golf Club section of the creek. Six members were in the water, while two handled inflatable rafts and others probed the bottom of the creek with oars, flanked by two police officers walking along the bank. It was tough slogging, as the officers were in full gear under a hot sun.

"It's a hell of way to search a river," said one crewmember.

Just before they got word that the crew had found Junior's body, the boy's family had gathered to support his mother, Ansah Augustina.

Junior's aunt, said her nephew rarely went anywhere alone. "The kids around here (are) always together, and usually someone's out there watching them. Unfortunately, this time he didn't come back," she said.

Jerry Pallotta, superintendent of the building near Martingrove Rd. and Eglinton Ave. W. where Junior lived, said he often watched to see that area kids stayed away from the spot where the boy got to the creek.

He described Junior as "a hyperactive, nice-going kid, who occasionally got into mischief, as kids do." The boy was often under the watchful eye of one of his three siblings or another family member, he said.

"He was a really smart kid, always having fun," said his friend, 10-year-old Jerry Owusu.

Junior had been playing with two friends when he slipped in. They tried to rescue him, but he was swept away too quickly.

Firefighters from Rescue Squad recover body of Robert from under a Mimico Creek bridge.

Neighbourhood children pointed to the area behind a nearby apartment complex where the boy probably got access to the creek: a fence about 9 metres down a steep hill. There was a large hole in it, that, after the death, appeared to have been covered by a temporary piece, held in place by five padlocks.Management for the building adjacent to the fence could not be reached for comment.

"Usually, the older guys, the 20- to 25-year-olds in the area, go down there to party," Pallotta said. "The little kids jump down there to see what their older brothers are doing."Pallotta said the fence hasn't been a deterrent, as kids can just climb over it.

Past the fence, the creek's banks have been turned into a concrete spillway. Police detective, Colin Kay, said that with the water so high, the sides became incredibly slick, and that's how Junior lost his balance and slipped in.

Runoff streams like Mimico Creek are "often babbling brooks, usually very still," Kay said. "But with the severe rain we had two nights ago, they fill very quickly and become very fast-flowing watercourses in a very short period of time, and it would take a very strong swimmer to be able to negotiate it."

While warnings typically go out during the spring thaw, Kay said, these streams are also dangerous after any heavy rain.