GASTON, Ore. (KOIN 6) — In the wake of the drowning deaths of four family members at Hagg Lake on Monday, County Commissioner Bob Terry said safety changes will be made.
“We have to do what we can do, and we’ll certainly make sure that, certainly, it is at least signed,” Terry told KOIN 6 News.
The four family members who drowned were identified as Jova Ixtacua-Castano, 42; Gabriela Garcia-Ixtacua, 25; Michael Garcia-Ixtacua, 13; and 3-year-old Jeremy.
It’s unclear how or why they ended up the lake. Deputies said it’s possible one person got into trouble and the others went in to help.
There is a major drop-off in Hagg Lake close to where the four perished. About two years ago, eight children nearly drowned in the same area near Sain Creek.
Asked why there aren’t signs warning people about the hazard in the water, Washington County Parks Superintendent Todd Winter said the spot is a natural area.
“Given the size and nature (of the spot) we rely on the public to help us help them and take some responsibility for their own safety,” Winter said. “We recommend folks who enter the water or near it that they wear life vests.”
Pressed on why the county hasn’t done more, he said, “We’ve always looked at it. That’s why we have the kiosks and the (life vest) loaner program.”
In the near-drowning two years ago, Jessica MacClean’s family helped rescue those eight children.
“It’s so easy to push that blame on people that, ‘Oh, you should have life jackets on’ when you’re not aware of what’s really going on,” she told KOIN 6 News.
MacClean made it her college senior project in 2012 to spread awareness about the dangers. She wrote an email to the county specifically mentioning the need for signage.
She said the response she got was, “‘Here, just push more life jackets. Try and get more donations for life jackets,’” she said. The county never really addressed “my question on why aren’t we letting people know why they should be wearing them.”
But after the drowings this week, she said, “I wish I would have pushed harder, and I feel like this is my time now.”
County parks officials said they will meet with first responders on Tuesday to discuss possible safety additions in the area.