CORVALLIS, Ore. — The Benton County Sheriff’s Office says an Albany man drowned in the Willamette River this weekend.
Investigators say witnesses called 911 just before 6 p.m. on Sunday, after 24-year-old Lee Roy Allen Dow slipped on his inner tube, went under the water, and never resurfaced.
Investigators say Dow had gone into the river at the Crystal Lake Boat Ramp on an inflatable inner tube. He was floating the river with some of his friends. Captain Greg Ridler with BCSO says it was close to the boat ramp where Dow drowned. The Linn County Sheriff’s Office and the Albany Fire Department assisted BCSO to recover the body from the river.
“It’s just a very, very unfortunate accident,” Ridler said.
Ridler says he does not know why Dow never resurfaced, but that investigators do not suspect any foul play.
“Even though it’s nice and warm outside, the water can be very cold,” he said. “You could suffer from hypothermia very quickly in the water, and there is debris in the water that floats down. You could be struck by something and go unconscious.”
Dow’s family and friends say they are having a difficult time dealing with the loss.
“It’s a shock to the family,” said Dow’s older sister De Ann Dow. “Everybody is breathless. It doesn’t seem real. It was so sudden, and I’m just waiting for him to walk through the door.”
De Ann says family was extremely important to Lee Roy. She also says he would do whatever he could to make someone smile.
“He was a big goofball,” she said. “But he would always make people laugh. He brought joy to people’s lives. He was so full of life.”
Meanwhile, as the family tries to cope through a difficult time, the Sheriff’s Office says the tragedy serves as a good reminder for everyone to always wear a life jacket before going into the river. Investigators say Dow was not wearing one.
“If people have a difficult time with putting on a personal flotation device, they haven’t seen the tragedy that results from a situation like this,” Ridler said.
Ridler says if anyone is embarrassed to wear a life jacket, or thinks it is uncomfortable, to remember that it could save a life.
“If if they were able to view what we view when we deal with a situation like this, I think that the tragedy would overcome any embarrassment or any idea that this is not a ‘cool’ thing to wear. We want people to have fun, but be careful. It’s just so difficult for the survivors of these situations to deal with the aftermath.”