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Good Samaritans rush to save 4-year-old who fell into Oregon river

Photo of Three Pools from the Marion County Sheriff's Office

LYONS, Ore. – A 4-year-old boy is safe after being swept away in the North Fork Santiam River on Sunday thanks to a group of strangers who jumped into action to save him.

The boy was standing at the water’s edge in North Fork County Park with his father and siblings when at about 3 p.m. he ended up in the river, the Marion County Sheriff’s Office said.

Four good Samaritans immediately started working to save the child.

Jason McDade says he had no intentions of jumping into the water Sunday afternoon, until he saw the child bobbing in and out of the water.

"I see a kid floating on his back and I thought he was just swimming, enjoying the water and he was bobbing under the water and whatnot. I thought he was messing around, playing in the water," he said. "I look into the water and he's way down there and he wasn't moving or anything. My mom said, 'Go get him' and I took off my shirt and got in."

McDade said, at this point, the 4-year-old had been carried about 15 feet away from his family and was under water for at least 20 seconds before he got to him.

"My eyes were open so I can see where I was going because I was down there for quite a bit. I grabbed him by his arm and he was limp. I was like, 'Oh no,'" said McDade.

After McDada brought the boy's unconscious body to the surface, Christian Lozano took him to the shore. Then, Kelda Klukis stepped into action. She and Maryela Lozana started CPR on the boy. Klukis said her 17 years as a certified nursing assistant prepared her for moments like this, but she says it's still scary every single time.

"Your fight or flight kicks into gear and you gotta do what you gotta do," Klukis said. "Paramedics were called. It took almost three minutes for them to get there and that's critical time a life has."

During those critical minutes, it became a game of delegation among strangers; people wanting to help, but didn't know how.

"It all happened in like five minutes, it was real fast," said McDade. "I don't really know what to think. I just did what I thought was right."

Officials said the boy was breathing again when paramedics took the boy to the Santiam Hospital, then was later transported to a children's hospital in Portland.

The act of teamwork among strangers saved the 4-year old's life. A tragedy prevented this time became a lesson valued for the next.

"Adults and small children alike don't like wearing life jackets or be safe because of being made fun of, but in situations like this, it doesn't matter," said Klukis.

The boy wasn’t wearing a life jacket, and the Marion County Sheriff’s Office asks anyone who is near open water to put on a life vest.

“We would also like to thank all of the rescuers who worked together to save a young boys life,” the sheriff’s office said.

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