PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The search for a young boy who was swept away by the current of the Willamette River Friday afternoon resumed Saturday morning.
The Polk County Sheriff’s Office led the search beginning around 8 a.m. Saturday. The search included resources from the National Guard and drones. Authorities said efforts will continue until sundown Saturday and will resume Sunday if necessary.
Salem police said the 11-year-old boy, Nehemiah Wilson, was swimming in the river near a boat ramp at Wallace Marine Park in Salem when he went became distressed shortly before 4 p.m.
Brody Johnson was walking home from a movie when he heard the laughing and splashing of kids having fun. That sound was soon replaced by the desperate cries of a mother.
“I heard the mom yelling, saying ‘help me,'” Johnson told KOIN 6 News.
He said Nehemiah was swept away by the current, then went under before other nearby swimmers could reach him.
“Once the kid started going up and down, under and above the water, that’s when I finally called  because that’s when everything started getting serious,” Johnson said.
The boy was not wearing a life jacket.
“It sounds like there were some life vests available to some of the other children but he wasn’t wearing one at the time,” Lt. Dave Okada with Salem Police said.
Search and rescue boats from multiple agencies responded within minutes and spent hours looking for the boy, but were unsuccessful in their search Friday night.
Police say this is something that can be avoided.
“Wear a life jacket,” Okada said. “That’s the best thing we can advise people.”
The Salem Police Department would like to remind the public that waterways may seem calm and peaceful, but the cold water temperatures, unpredictable currents and hazards in the water can be very dangerous to swimmers. Even strong swimmers can easily become over-exerted when swimming in cold water, as the cold can quickly drain the energy of a swimmer. Also, jumping from hot outdoor temperatures into cold water can be a shock to the system and easily put swimmers in peril. Even strong swimmers should wear personal flotation devices when swimming in these cold lakes and rivers, and always swim with a buddy and be aware of your buddy’s condition.