Teen drowns attempting to swim across Spokane River

SPOKANE, Wash. - 21138810

A Spokane Valley teenager drowned trying to swim across the Spokane River Tuesday. It happened around 2:30 p.m. about a half mile west of the Sullivan bridge.

Firefighters say the 18-year-old man tried to swim across with his girlfriend, but was caught, went under and drowned. Eyewitnesses were able to pull him out of the river and onto a rock and performed CPR on him but they were not able to save him.

MedStar was launched to help bring the victim to the hospital but after several minutes on the ground the helicopter took off without the victim.

"Whether the water is as low as it is right now it still has undercurrents and it can take people without surprise. On this 18-year-old male now, it's going to be too hard for the community to deal with," Spokane Valley Assistant Fire Marshal Bill Clifford said.

The man hasn't yet been identified. For avid river kayaker Carl Van Etten, it's one more life he wishes he could have saved.

"I got a text from a friend that said the river took another victim," he said.

Van Etten launched a loaner life jacket program last Saturday.

"These life jackets are free to use," he said pointing to three of them at Mirabeau Park.

Van Etten was restocking life jackets when we ran into him Tuesday night, after a tragic reminder of how much they're needed.

"It really did put a bad feeling inside me," Van Etten said.

Firefighters say the 18-year-old could have been saved by a life jacket. Van Etten hopes the program will save a life tomorrow.

"A lot of people have them but some people don't, and it's the people who don't have a life jacket that I want to make sure have one available," Van Etten said.

If you'd like to donate to the life jacket program, you can drop one off at any S.C.O.P.E location.