Life jacket loaner station dedicated to drowned boys

Life jacket loaner station dedicated to drowned boys
One of many loaner life jackets that authorities say have saved, and will save, lives in Oregon and Southwest Washington. ( file photo)

INDEPENDENCE, Ore. - Citizens of Monmouth and Independence joined together Saturday morning at Riverview Park in Independence to commemorate a solemn event, and celebrate one that could give life to so many.

The towns lie midway between Portland and Eugene, following the Willamette River. The crowd was there to dedicate a life jacket loaner station, in memory of brothers who drowned near the park in the Willamette River last winter.

Preventable drowning accidents occur every summer in most every waterway including those near Portland and in the mid-Willamette Valley. Most recently, a 14-year-old boy without a life jacket drowned in the Willamette River near Keizer, about a mile downstream of Wallace Marine Park. Wallace Marine Park has its own life jacket loaner station.

The brothers being remembered
Alvin Troub, 20, and Michael Runyon, 8, both of Independence, died on Nov. 16, 2008. The life jacket loaner station was erected in their memory by Safe Kids Willamette Valley and Salem Hospital Foundation to prevent future deaths.

The life jacket station was built as an Eagle Scout project by Walter Moser of Independence and Boy Scout Troop 38. The brothers will be remembered with a plaque on a granite marker donated by citizens and businesses in Monmouth and Independence.

"People really underestimate the power of the water and how disabling the coldness of the water can be," said Kelly Owen, trauma nurse and injury prevention specialist at Salem Hospital, and coordinator of Safe Kids Willamette Valley. "Almost all drowning can be prevented by using a life jacket."

About life jacket loaner stations
Owen said the life jackets are available at the station for anyone to borrow for day use. He asked that community members return them at the end of the day so others can use them.

Funds for the life jacket loaner station came from a grant by the Oregon State Marine Board, through Salem Hospital Foundation.

Contributors to the installation of the granite marker and memorial plaque included First Baptist Church, Marr Brothers Bark Dust, Pacific Stonescape, Petals and Vines, and private citizens of Monmouth and Independence.