PORTLAND, Ore. – Lifeguards had to jump into action again on Tuesday at the same stretch of river where a young boy was swept away by the current on Sunday and presumably drowned.
A KATU News crew was at Glenn Otto Park along the Sandy River speaking with lifeguards about river safety when two boys – who were wearing life jackets – and their grandfather needed help after getting caught in the current.
A lifeguard in a kayak and a second on a paddleboard rushed after the struggling swimmers and safely pulled them out of the water.
They were not hurt. Lifeguards say it’s an example of what happens at the park almost daily.
There are no limits on how many people can be in the river at the park or where they can swim; there is also no maximum number of lifeguards who have to be on duty.
The lifeguard program at Glenn Otto Park is run by AMR Ambulance. A company spokesman said on most days there are two lifeguards at the park. On extremely hot days where they expect lots of swimmers AMR will add a third lifeguard.
AMR also offers free loaner life jackets for any swimmers at the park.
Lifeguards say using those life jackets is the most important thing swimmers can do to keep themselves safe.
“It doesn’t matter how many lifeguards you have, the odds are you aren’t going to see everybody doing everything all the time,” said AMR spokesman Randy Lauer.
Troutdale City Council president Norman Thomas told KATU on Tuesday that he thinks all kids should be required to wear life jackets while swimming at the park. Lauer with AMR said he also thinks the city should require it.
"It's almost a no-brainer. Under state law a child under the age of 12 has to wear a PFD (life jacket) if they're in a boat, so it just makes sense that it's more important to wear one in the water," Lauer said.
Rescues at Glenn Otto Park are common because the water is so swift. Before the lifeguard program started 15 years ago Lauer said an average of two people drowned there each summer.
There hasn’t been a fatal accident until Sunday evening when 7-year-old Asekur Rahman was swept away.
He was not seen again after he went under. Search and rescue crews significantly scaled back their search on Monday evening.
Boy's pillow used in ritual in hopes of finding him
Asekur's mother, Taslima Khatum, breathed in his scent from his pillow and kissed it. She then placed it into the river, hoping it follows the current that her son floated in Sunday and finds where his body might have come to rest.
Her English and her heart are broken but her 11-year-old daughter, Parvina, explained her grief is pure.
"He just liked to play a lot," she said.
Asekur's father, Khoshhal Jamal, is from Afghanistan and his mother is from Myanmar. The family has only lived in Portland for three years.
Friends of the family joined in the search. They watched Asekur's pillow floating to find its owner.
Sheer sadness was in his father's eyes. And in a moment of pride, Khoshhal Jamal showed a reporter his key chain with his son's photograph and the smiling face he wants to bring to rest.
"Maybe the pillow will find him," he said.
But on Tuesday, the pillow continued on its own path. So the family and their friends prayed on the riverbank.
The family said they plan to come back to the river every day for the rest of the week to pray and look for the boy's body.