Searchers equipped with sonar scoured the bottom of the swift-flowing Pend Oreille River on Monday, searching for the missing son of a church camp director.
Jordan Mason, 7, was presumed drowned after a Friday boating accident witnessed by his father, Tim Mason, who runs the Riverview Bible Camp north of Cusick.
“It’s not going to be an easy search,” said Gene Ralston of Boise, who arrived Monday morning with his side-scan sonar, which uses sound waves to locate bodies.
The river’s quick currents and sandy, mostly debris-free bottom complicated the effort, said Ralston. A team of seven divers was called to the scene Saturday. The search was suspended Sunday night pending the arrival of Ralston, whose firm, Ralston & Associates, is renowned for its recovery skills.
The search would continue, Ralston said, “until we’ve decided there isn’t anything more that we can do.”
After checking up and down the river, searchers looked in a grid pattern, said Sgt. Qwestin Youk of the Pend Oreille County Sheriff’s Office.
If there’s no sign of the boy by Wednesday, officials plan to turn off the turbines at the Box Canyon Dam, more than 20 miles downstream on the river that flows north into Canada. That would calm the current and could help crews find the child, searchers said.
Tim Mason was towing Jordan and a 17-year-old girl on a tube behind a boat about 7:30 p.m. Friday, said Richard Morgan, who coordinates the prayer chain for Fourth Memorial Church, which runs the Bible camp. The tube was then hit by a second boat.
“Tim had stopped, and the other boat was moving and ran right into the tube,” Morgan said.
The second boat was piloted by a young woman employed by the church camp, Morgan and law enforcement officials said. Officials have not identified either the young driver of the second boat or the girl who was on the tube with Jordan.
The crash flung Jordan and the 17-year-old girl into the water. The girl suffered cuts to her thigh and was treated at a local hospital, law enforcement officials said. Jordan’s life jacket was torn off and he hasn’t been seen since.
Tim Mason and the young woman driving the second boat leaped into the water to find Jordan, according to Perry Pearman, a dive team member.
Search crews from Bonner, Pend Oreille and Spokane counties quickly joined the effort, which also included aircraft from the Civil Air Patrol and helicopters from the U.S. Border Patrol.
“We’re looking for him as if he were our own,” said Pearman.
The loss of the blond, blue-eyed boy is devastating, especially in a community that so respects the work of his father, Morgan said.
Mason has been director of the Riverview Bible Camp for three or four years, said Darrin Duty, youth pastor at the church.
Church members flocked to support Mason and his wife, Katrina, who have two other boys, Justin, 5, and Jonathan, 2.
“Just prayer,” said Duty, when asked how others could help.
Bloggers posted letters of sympathy and volunteers planned a spaghetti feed and auction to raise funds to create a memorial library in honor of Jordan at the Bible camp, Morgan said.
Mason family members remained in seclusion Monday afternoon, said a man who answered their phone. Obviously, it’s a very difficult time, Morgan added.
“They are Christians,” he said. “So they have an inner strength.”