Bodies of drowning victims recovered from White River Falls

Bodies of drowning victims recovered from White River Falls »Play Video
Caleb Justice, 15 (left), and Jonathan Brett McLean, 26

PORTLAND, Ore. - Two people, a man and a teenager, drowned Monday afternoon while on a church outing about four miles east of Tygh Valley, Ore. south of The Dalles.

The bodies of 15-year-old Caleb Justice and 26-year-old Jonathan Brett McLean were recovered from beneath a ledge behind White River Falls more than 24 hours later, according to the Wasco County Sheriff's Office.

The bodies were found at about 5:45 p.m. Tuesday by Redmond diver Mark Angel, said Wasco County's Chief Deputy Lane Magill, who also said the action of the water kept the bodies lodged beneath that ledge and prevented them from floating downriver.

Wasco County sheriff's deputies said Justice and McLean tried to walk behind the falls to take a photo at about 2 p.m. Monday.

Initial reports said Justice slipped and fell while taking pictures and McLean jumped in after him.

But Tuesday afternoon, Magill said it appeared Justice and McLean slipped on rocks and went into the water at about the same time.

Magill said they were walking on the rocks at the northern end of the pool about 4-6 feet above the water.

"In that process, when they went around, they both slipped on the rocks and went into the pool," Magill said. "Pretty much at the same time is kind of what we're understanding."

Despite throwing ropes to the pair, witnesses were unable to rescue them. Both ended up drowning, deputies said.

Magill said the water is moving fast in the pool.

"It's churning and boiling," he said. "Once you get sucked into that it'll hold you in that pool."

"Those rocks around there are constantly slick with moisture and they slipped on those rocks," Magill added. "It's a tragic accident."

Justice was a member of a River Rock Church group, made up of members mostly from the Portland and Vancouver area.

Justice's pastor at the church said the boy had a sweet personality and a passion for Jesus.

"It was definitely evident in his life," Paul Ireland said. "He was a joy to be around and he was just a great kid."

McLean was a member of a different church group. It's not clear if he knew Justice before they were on the rocks together.

175 kids from five area churches were at the camp.

Zach Harvey lives across the street from the state park and says you can swim near the waterfall, but only if you know what you're doing.

"If you're not used to swimming in whitewater it's a weird feeling," he said. "It's a little scary and depending on people's reactions, some people panic."

A private church service in Camas, Wash. was held for McLean Tuesday night.

The River Rock Church in Vancouver plans to hold a youth service for Justice at 7 p.m. on Wednesday.

This version corrects information that was originally attributed to Mark Angel, a diver from Redmond, to Wasco County Sheriff's Office Chief Deputy Lane Magill. This version also removes a line that incorrectly said there were "no trespassing" signs on the rocks.