GATES, Ore. – A young man lost his life on Friday after jumping into the cold water of the North Santiam River to try to save a 5-year-old boy who had fallen in.
The incident happened around 3:30 p.m. just down river from Niagara County Park.
Two men - 22-year-old Eric Eugene Johnson and 23-year-old Jacob Jay Allen - had headed there to go fishing with the young boy, 5-year-old Anthony Barkley Berlin (Allen's son).
When Berlin fell into the river, Johnson jumped in to try to save his friend's boy. Johnson did not make it out alive and his body was later recovered.
Johnson drowned in an area of the North Santiam River that has a strong current and is treacherous. There are large rocks and sometimes 40-foot deep pools of turbulent water where someone could easily get trapped.
The little boy has not yet been found. He is believed to have drowned. On Saturday, the Corps of Engineers tried to help divers by slowing the water flow from upstream dams.
The boy's father and family were at a local fire station on Saturday waiting for word. They asked the media to respect their privacy and did not want to comment on the search at this time.
Johnson's family is heartbroken but at the same time they feel some sense of peace about what happened. "We know that he lost his life trying to help somebody so that's like a comfort to us," his grandmother, Lois Johnson, said.