On Sunday, July 16th, a 4-year-old boy was standing near the river with his fathers and siblings when he fell in the North Fork Santiam River and was immediately swept along by the river.
Almost immediately, four strangers jumped into action to help the child.
Jason McDade, who had no intention of playing in the water that day, jumped in the moment he realized the child was limply bobbing up and down in the river.
“I see a kid floating on his back, and I thought he was just swimming, enjoying the water, and he was bobbing under the water and whatnot,” Jason said. “I thought he was messing around, playing in the water. I look into the water and he’s way down there, and he wasn’t moving or anything. My mom said, ‘Go get him’ and I took off my shirt and got in.”
By the time McDade reached the 4-year-old, the boy had been carried 15 feet and was under water for at least 20 seconds.
“My eyes were open so I can see where I was going because I was down there for quite a bit. I grabbed him by his harm, and he was limp. I was like, ‘Oh, no.”
After Jason reached the surface, Christian Lozana took the boy to shore. Kelda Klukis, who had seventeen years of experience as a certified nursing assistant, described how tense the situation was.
“Your fight or flight kicks into gear, and you gotta do what you gotta do,” Kelda said. “Paramedics were called. It took almost three minutes for them to get there, and that’s critical time a life has.”
Jason said, “It all happened in like five minutes, it was real fast. I don’t really now what to think. I just did what I thought was right.”
By the time the paramedics arrived, the boy was breathing again thanks to the heroic efforts of the four strangers and taken to the Santiam Hospital, later to be transported to a children’s hospital in Portland.