Wamic A 12-year-old girl from The Dalles drowned in the Pine Hollow Reservoir Friday night, the fourth death in a local waterway this summer.
Chief Deputy Lane Magill of the Wasco County Sheriff’s Office said the body of Fanney Garcia was recovered from about 15 feet of water Saturday morning by a dive team from Skamania County. She had been swimming with her sister, age 5, when she reportedly became too exhausted to make it back to shore.
“This was just one of those unfortunate accidents,” said Magill.
He said a male bystander brought the 5-year-old to safety after observing that the children were exhibiting signs of distress. The man was unable to get to the older girl before she went underwater and did not resurface.
Magill said the family had come to the lake for a gathering with family and friends and were nearby when the tragedy occurred.
Because it was growing dark by the time family members and law enforcement officials had searched the shoreline Aug. 17, Magill said the dive team was not deployed until early the next morning.
He said the divers, within a short time of entering the water, found Garcia’s body in the same location where she had last been seen. Her remains were transported from the lake by Spencer, Libby and Powell of The Dalles, which is also handling funeral arrangements.
Magill said drownings within Wasco County usually occur in swift water on the Deschutes River that is heavily used by rafters and other recreationists. He said it has been unusual this summer to have a death occur at Pine Hollow — he can’t remember the last drowning — and in the Columbia River near The Dalles, where there has not been a fatality for many years.
Earlier this month, the body of James Hawkins, 19, of Eugene was recovered from about 10 feet of water in the Columbia outside the Water’s Edge complex by Skamania County divers. Witnesses told Wasco County authorities that Hawkins swam Aug. 15 to a small island near the base of the Highway 197 Dalles Bridge and was trying to get back to shore when the current overpowered him.
Magill said the White River Falls is known to be a dangerous area but the drowning deaths of two men in July were the first in several years. The bodies of Jonathan Brett McLean, 26, of Portland and Caleb Justice, 15, of the Vancouver-Camas area in Washington were found after a two-day search. They died July 8 after falling off a rock ledge while trying to take pictures of the cascading water. Their remains were found pushed up under a rock at the bottom of the pool behind the falls.
None of the victims in the recent incidents were wearing flotation devices, said Magill, and he strongly recommends that swimmers and boaters use this equipment.
“I’m not saying that having a life jacket on will always save your life but it will make your life safer,” he said.
Magill said life jackets must be carried onboard a boat for every passenger and worn by children under 12 at all times and by adults in fast moving water. He said deputies regularly ticket boaters on the Deschutes for not wearing a vest, which is a $260 fine.
“When people complain, I ask them, ‘Would you rather have me issue a citation or have to tell your family that you died,’ and I don’t get many arguments after that,” he said.