Green River

On Friday, I took the dog to the vet to have her stitches out. Long story, that. The short version is that she ran over a shard of broken glass the week before and had to be sewn back together. To the tune of $350. Ouch. On so many levels, ouch. So by Friday morning, we both had a healthy dose of cabin fever. With the vet’s okay, we drove directly down to Brannan Park on the Green River for our first walk in about ten days.
This particular trail is ideal for a warm-up after a prolonged stay indoors. The trail follows the river through the park and beyond it for another half mile or so. And, because the trail simply dead-ends at that point, it’s a bit of a trail-to-nowhere, so not heavily used. I can let the dog off the leash without having to worry too much about encountering other people/animals. It’s short, it’s quiet, it’s scenic. What more could you want on a misty Friday morning?
Walking past the park, the first thing I noticed was a helicopter. It was hovering directly over the river, not moving at all. That was odd enough, but then I noticed another one further downriver, also standing sentry over the water. And then another beyond that. As we kept walking, we eventually noticed a full complement of sheriffs’ vehicles parked along the road across the river, lights flashing red. And then the rescue boats in the water, probing the bottom of the rain-engorged river with long poles.
As we turned about at the far end of the trail, there were so many people standing about on the trail that I gave up the idea of letting the dog walk off-leash. There was even a KING 5 camera crew interviewing neighbors who’d come out of their houses for a closer look. I asked one of them what was going on. A car, she told me, had lost control and ended up in the river. The driver got out, but there were still two boys in the car. How long had they been underwater. Oh, at least a couple of hours.
We came home and I turned on the news. If you’re local, you probably already know what happened, but for those of you at large, a 16-year-old girl was driving her 2-year-old cousin to day care for her aunt (who was recovering from knee surgery). Another 13-year-old cousin was along for the ride (why?). The day care wouldn’t take the baby because he was sick, so the kids were heading home when the driver lost control on the wet and windy road and found herself in the river. She was able to get free of the car, but she was swept away when she tried to get back to the boys. And then the car disappeared below the surface. Distraught, she flagged down a passing car and was taken to the hospital. Law enforcement eventually found the car about 100 yards downriver from where it entered the water. The river was so high and strong that they had no visibility and couldn’t even attach chains to the car to pull it out. The current was so strong the divers couldn’t even keep their regulators in place.
The family has been holding a vigil at the riverbank ever since. They vow not to leave until their boys are pulled out of the river. Today divers finally managed to get chains on the car (probably at great personal risk–but with several inches of rain due tomorrow, the pressure was on). The baby was still in his car seat, but no sign of the 13-year-old’s body. The family’s vigil continues.
About 100 yards from the accident site (the same place they originally located the car in the river), on the same road, sits the Mary Olson Farm. The farm remained in the same family for nearly 75 years (from its establishment in 1895). In its remote and sheltered valley, it has remained largely untouched by time. The farm house still has never had plumbing nor electricity. The city acquired this unique property several years ago and has been in the process of turning it into a historical/heritage site, an interpretative center illustrating the sort of family farm that was the backbone of our area’s settlement.
Since this school year began, I’ve been a volunteer facilitator of the school district field trips to the Mary Olson Farm. We began the year with first grade field trips, talking about our food and where it comes from. We’ve had the past week off and will now transition to sixth grade field trips which feature stream ecology and the life cycle of salmon (there are two salmon runs in Olson Creek each fall). The first of the sixth grade classes will be on site tomorrow. This means at some point the friends and classmates of the boy still missing in the river will ride a school bus directly through the vigil by the river–the tents and the grief and the media and all–to get to the farm. How do they possibly focus on ecology and fish after something like that?
I’ve been preoccupied with this situation all weekend. Mostly I think about the girl who was driving the car. I too got my driver’s license when I was 16. It seems like most people who got their licenses at that age have some tale of stupidity and bad judgment to tell about their first year of driving. In my case, I totaled a car and put the life of a good friend in danger. Still, I was lucky. This girl is going to have to live her entire life with the knowledge that two children lost their lives to her inexperience.
What an incredible, tragic waste.
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6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Margaret
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 20:50:00

    Yes, I did read about this sad tragedy. When I was in high school, a friend was driving, looked down to change the radio station and crossed the center line, pinning a small car against a tree. It killed a 30 some year old mom and my friend never recovered from it. She ended up getting involved in drugs and other things and died in her early 40s in a rest home. I hope this girl will fare better than Kim.

    Reply

  2. Tui
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 21:08:00

    I, too, have been feeling quite affected by this tragedy. My heart goes out to all involved, especially the young girl who was driving. I didn't get my driver's license until I was 40, in part because I was overwhelmed by the responsibility that one has behind the wheel. I was scared! Statistically, the amount of people who die behind the wheel in the USA alone is equal to a jumbo jet falling out of the sky every day… As a pal of mine used to say, the most dangerous part of your flight is the drive to the airport.Ironically enough, I do insurance transcription for a living, so I listen to people describing how car accidents occurred a lot.That's probably why I am a proponent of teens having restrictions on their license, because experience takes time to accumulate, and one little distraction can cost lives. On a different subject, I love your photo. Glad your pooch is feeling better. I'd never heard of the Mary Olson Farm, either, but it sounds like a great outting for kids.~Tui

    Reply

  3. Danger Panda
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 22:21:00

    Margaret, yes, I fear this girl is going to have a similar hard time understanding that the adults who involved her in what should have been harmless errands are as much to blame. It probably wouldn't help though, even if she did.Tui, welcome, and thanks for chiming in. Interestingly, I have been working on an auto accident case for my attorney this week, one strikingly similar to an accident I was involved in a couple of years ago. Funny how these reports, dry as they are, can bring such things flooding back.Are you local? The Mary Olson Farm is only open to school district field trips at this point, but in a year or two should be open to the general public. Stay tuned!

    Reply

  4. JoJo
    Nov 17, 2008 @ 10:20:00

    Yep, this accident was pretty heartbreaking. Did you hear on Friday that the 2 y/o's father was in a motorcycle accident on Hwy 18? He was treated/released but booked for DUI.What I want to know is what a 16 & 13 y/o were doing out of school on Monday. Also, when my boss' son got his license at 16, he wasn't allowed to have anyone under 18 in the car w/ him unless he was w/ an adult. What was this girl doing w/ 2 kids in her car?

    Reply

  5. OldHorsetailSnake
    Nov 21, 2008 @ 17:46:00

    Boy, things like that tear me up. It all could have been avoided. Rats.

    Reply

  6. FirstNations
    Nov 30, 2008 @ 15:20:00

    you can't bear the weight of the world. it's going to be hard for the children, but they already know whats going on there so it's not going to be a huge thing either. just another interesting event, at that age.

    Reply

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