This small riverside community is mourning a double tragedy after a man drowned in an apparent attempt to rescue his 7-year-old nephew from the frigid Pend Oreille River.
Relatives believe the two were fishing from the Cusick public dock when the boy, Brandon See, fell in.
Donny Dana, 29, jumped in after him, family members and authorities suspect.
“But that water is so cold,” said Dana’s father, Chuck.
Donny Dana’s golden retriever apparently was the only witness. The dog went along when Dana and Brandon went fishing about 11 a.m.
The Everett boy was visiting his uncle and other relatives in Cusick during his school’s spring break.
“We weren’t going to allow Brandon to go out in a boat,” said his grandmother, Geraldine Dana. “We were just going to let him go down to the dock with an adult. We thought he would be safe.”
She said her son “grew up on the river and he just wanted to show his nephew a good time.”
They took only one fishing pole, for Brandon. It was later found floating in the river.
When Donny Dana’s brother, Robby, went to the dock shortly after noon, he found only a can of bait, a package of gum and his brother’s dog. The pet was pacing the shoreline.
Robby Dana, 28, suspected something was wrong when he saw the dog that goes by two names, “Stud” and “Boo.” He searched the bank up and down the river with the dog’s help while friends and neighbors searched with boats.
At first, family members thought a friend might have taken the two anglers to another fishing hole, but hope faded when they discovered the friend was away on vacation. They called authorities about 5:30 p.m. and about two dozen search and rescue workers scoured the area until 3 a.m. Tuesday.
Many of Cusick’s 244 residents also joined the search. Donny Dana, a state Department of Natural Resources firefighter, graduated from Cusick High School in 1968 and was well known in the community.
“There must have been 50 or 60 people on the dock to help out,” said the Rev. Jim Bridges, pastor of Cusick Community Church, where the Dana family attends. “It’s a tragedy, and the whole community feels it.”
Robby Dana, a medical member for the Cusick Volunteer Fire Department, said he clung to a pole at the dock for hours when the search was called off and his brother hadn’t been found.
“They had to come down there and peel me off it,” he said. “I didn’t want to leave.”
Relatives said members of the search and rescue team told them it was unlikely anyone could have survived more than 30 minutes in the 42-degree water. Although the half-mile-wide river seems placid with a current of only 2-3 mph, it is deceptively powerful.
Divers found Donny Dana’s body at 8:15 a.m. Tuesday about 100 feet downstream from the dock, just down from where Brandon’s body was found about midnight.
Robby Dana said the dock has given him the jitters since it was built about a year ago. “Every time you step on it, it kind of tilts,” he said. “I don’t like the way it’s built.” Nor does he care for the river.
“I don’t like that river now,” he said, his red eyes flooded with tears. “I just don’t want to have no part of it.”
In addition to his parents and brother Robby, Donny Dana is survived by his wife, Becky; two stepchildren, Codie and Jennifer; a brother, Randy, of the Cusick area; two half-sisters, Charlene Dana of Coeur d’Alene, and Denise Stine of Fairbanks, Alaska; and a half-brother, Bud See of Everett.
Bud and Patty See, the boy’s parents, have three other children: Jeremy, Cory and Samantha.
Funeral arrangements for the victims are pending at Sherman & Knapp Funeral Home in Newport.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 2 Photos Map of area
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