CLATSKANIE, Ore. - A man who jumped into the cold water of the Columbia River to rescue his 2-year-old son was later found dead in 16 feet of water, about 30 feet from where had last been seen.
The incident happened Saturday in the Clatskanie area in what is called the Wallace Slough.
According to the U.S. Coast Guard, five people were on a fishing boat when a 2-year-old boy somehow fell into the water.
The boy's father, 35-year-old Brant Hicks of Clatskanie, jumped in to save him and went under after handing the boy off to someone in the boat.
"He jumped overboard to get the baby and brought the baby up," said Cherokee Welter, Hicks' second cousin who was on shore waiting with other family members for word from searchers. "They tried throwing out a rope and it got caught in a fishing pole, to save him, and then he went under."
Hicks, who was not wearing a life jacket, never resurfaced and about six hours later his body was found in the river.
His son was taken to the hospital to be treated for signs of hypothermia and was later released. The river's water temperature was around 46 to 47 degrees.
"I was in shock and I cried my eyes out when I was with my mom," Welter said. "I could never imagine this could happen to any of our family because they've been out in the river our whole life."
"These water temperatures and these conditions, without a life jacket you have very little time," said Sgt. Russ George with the Columbia County Sheriff's Office.
The 2-year-old boy and two other kids on board, a 9-year-old boy and a 10-year-old girl, did have life jackets on. The other two children were Hicks' niece and nephew. Hicks' father-in-law was also on the boat and he was the one who called for help after Hicks jumped in to get his son.
"Our hearts go out to this family in their loss," Sheriff Jeff Dickerson, with the Columbia County Sheriff's Office, said in a news release.
Hicks leaves behind a wife and two children - the 2-year-old son he pulled out of the river and another son who is less than a year old. His family lives in Clatskanie.
"He was a good man," his father, Gary Hicks, said. "He loved his kids. He gave his life for his kids."
"Family was number one for him," his sister, Shelby Hicks, said. "Family has always been important to him since he was a kid."
Hicks worked for Railroad Systems as a manager/foreman. The company repairs and maintains railroads.
His family is working on setting up a memorial fund.
Editorial note: A previous version of this story stated that Hicks' son who was pulled from the river was 4 years old, which is the initial information we got from emergency responders. The Columbia County Sheriff's Office later issued a news release stating the boy was 2 years old.