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Tacoma youth on first camping trip drowns in Chehalis River

A 17-year-old Tacoma boy who had moved to this country from Nigeria drowned Saturday in the Chehalis River. The death occurred during the youth’s first camping trip, authorities said.

The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office said deputies responded to Rainbow Falls State Park, off of SR6 in Chehalis, on Saturday afternoon. Witnesses said the victim had been camping at the park with a group of friends when they all decided to go swimming at the nearby river.

The boy told his friends he was not a very good swimmer. A friend asked him to stay out of the water. But he decided to jump in, feet first, a witness said.

Another witness, a 19-year-old woman, said the boy surfaced and appeared panic-stricken. She attempted to save the boy but he kept flailing his arms so much she was unable to make contact before he quickly went under water and did not resurface.

The sheriff’s office said the victim was from Nigeria originally and had only been in Washington for 8 months. This was his first camping trip.

The water was fairly swift and cold.

“This is another tragic water related fatality,” said Sheriff Steve Mansfield. “Once again we are advising the public that whenever you are in areas of water, wear a flotation device if you aren’t a good swimmer. Ninety percent of water related fatalities could have been prevented by wearing a flotation device.”