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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Crime/Public Safety

21-year-old man dies drowning after beach goers try to save him

UPDATED: Wed., July 22, 2020

Girls play in the water at Boulder Beach on Tuesday afternoon about 100 yards away from the place where emergency responders pulled a drowned man out of the water an hour and a half earlier.  (Maggie Quinlan / The Spokesman-Review)
Girls play in the water at Boulder Beach on Tuesday afternoon about 100 yards away from the place where emergency responders pulled a drowned man out of the water an hour and a half earlier. (Maggie Quinlan / The Spokesman-Review)

A 21-year-old man drowned Tuesday afternoon near a popular Spokane River beach along Upriver Drive, according to the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office.

The man’s name has not been released pending notification of kin.

Witnesses described urgent efforts to try and save the man as he struggled to swim.

James McGlothlen, at Boulder Beach with his fiance, Norma Morris, and family friend Amy Guffey and her son, had floated across the river from the beach in an inner tube when the man and his two friends tried to swim across. They were not wearing life jackets.

He heard the young man, close to the middle of the river then, calling out “I’m tired,” to his two friends as he lagged behind them.

McGlothlen asked the friends if he was joking and they told McGlothlen their friend really couldn’t swim.

“Then I realized he was in trouble,” McGlothlen said. “I started screaming to the other side, ‘Somebody help him, Somebody help him.’ ”

McGlothlen said he shouted at the man to float on his back. He did for a moment and flipped over to try swimming again. Then he slipped beneath the water.

A woman swam up to try to save the man, McGlothlen said. He grabbed onto her and they both went under. After a struggle to the surface she came back up and he didn’t.

“I’ve never felt so hopeless in my whole life,” McGlothlen said. “I was just too far away. I couldn’t help.”

Morris said people at the busy beach mobilized to find the man. One woman stayed out in the water searching, clearly exhausted, Morris said, until first responders arrived. That woman pointed the Sheriff’s Office Dive Team to the man.

Morris said it was about 25 minutes after the man sank that Fire Swift Water Rescue shuttled him to shore in kayaks.

Members of the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office Deputies, the county Emergency Operations Team, Spokane City Fire, Spokane County Fire and Spokane Valley Fire all responded to assist in the rescue effort.

Responders attempted CPR at the scene and transported the man to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

“We remind swimmers to stay close to shore,” a Sheriff’s Office news release said. “If you decide to venture out, please wear a life jacket.”

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