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Register-Guard: Sibling River Rescue Turns Fatal

COTTAGE GROVE — A 16-year-old boy drowned Tuesday afternoon while trying to save his younger brother, who survived, at Wildwood Falls southeast of Dorena Lake, Lane County sheriff’s Sgt. Carrie Carver said.

The victim was not immediately identified, pending notification of family.

The incident unfolded shortly before 3 p.m. at the Lasells Stewart Picnic Area near Brice Creek Road. The victim was walking on rocks near the falls when his younger brother slipped and began to slide down the rocks into the water, Carver said.

The top of the rock wall stands about 25 feet to 30 feet above the base of the falls. The victim got down on the rocks in an attempt to save his younger brother but was unable to hold onto him because of the swiftness of the water, Carver said.

Witnesses said the older brother went into the water to try to save his sibling, and that both boys went down a narrow chute of water. The younger brother emerged but the older brother did not, Carver said.

Four Lane County Search and Rescue divers searched the area. The victim was recovered after an extensive operation involving a tow truck to remove a large log from the water chute to allow access to the body, Carver said.

The Lane County medical examiner is investigating.

The drowning fell on the warmest day of the year to date — 96 degrees in Eugene — when many people went to lakes and rivers, where water temperatures remain cold.

Wildwood Falls is a popular but dangerous swimming hole. There is a small underwater cavern where people can become trapped. Among other deaths there, a 27-year-old Eugene man drowned in 1999 when he and his dog were swept over the falls, and a 16-year-old girl drowned in 1996.

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