Search for drowned boy's body suspended due to danger

Search for drowned boy's body suspended due to danger
Eric Johnson with the Santiam River in the background.

GATES, Ore. - The body of a 5-year-old boy presumed drowned has not been found after four days of intensive search along the North Santiam River, prompting county officials to suspend the search.

Anthony Barkley Berlin drowned in the river Friday afternoon along with Eric Johnson, 22, an adult who tried to save the boy.

The search effort startd Friday, May 18, after Anthony fell into the water while fishing with his father at Niagara County Park.

Johnson, a family friend, dove in to try and rescue the boy. He drowned in the attempt. His body was recovered by divers later that day.

Since then, helicopters from REACH Air Ambulance and the Oregon Army National Guard and over 130 rescue personnel from 16 agencies have earched the waters and the banks of the North Santiam River.

Over the course of the search there were at least two incidents where divers were forced to abandon the river due to extremely dangerous conditions, Linn County Sheriff Tim Mueller said.

Beginning last Friday afternoon, the US Army Corps of Engineers held back water from Big Cliff and Detroit dams to lower the river level and aid searchers.

As water levels rose in the reservoirs, the Corps was forced to release water back into the river late Monday afternoon, causing the river to rise considerably and intensifying the already dangerous conditions.

Divers and swift water rescue teams searched the river from where the drowning occurred as far as Gates, about 4.5 miles downriver.

A swift water kayak and raft team also searched the river to Mill City, nearly 9 miles on the river.

Unfortunately all efforts proved to be unsuccessful, Mueller said.

Although major search operations have been suspended for the time being, the Linn County Sheriff's Office has not given up, the sheriff said. Deputies and other search teams will be checking the river, and further search operations that include divers and swift water teams will resume when water levels recede.