Teen dies after jumping into river, rescue diver fears more drownings this summer

A day after a 17-year-old boy died jumping off the Old Reinig Trestle into the Snoqualmie River, at least one person braved the bridge. 

“I’ve jumped off this bridge for over 15 years,” Richard Lovelett said. 

He said he jumped Wednesday in memory of the boy who died but said he doesn’t fear for his own life. 

“You gotta think about it and you gotta have buddies up here to actually watch you, just in case something like that does happen,” he said. 

It wouldn’t happen at all if it were up to Sgt. Mark Rorvik with King County Sheriff’s Office Marine Rescue Dive team. 

“If I had my way people wouldn’t be allowed in rivers, period,” Rorvik said.

He was one of three divers for the county who went in to rescue the teenager Tuesday. He said it’s their ninth drowning so far this year and it wears on him, especially when the victims are young. 

He said they responded to two drownings in 2019 and two in 2018, which means this year’s pace has already more than doubled the past two years combined. 

“To be frank, I’m just waiting for the next call and I have no doubt there’s going to be the next call,” he said.

This year, he said COVID-19 is playing a factor in drawing so many people outside. He said furloughs, unemployment and other circumstances mean people have more time, in addition to people just feeling cooped up.

Also, neighborhood pools aren’t an option. 

“I’m assuming that it’s drawing more people to swim in areas they wouldn’t normally swim in,” he said. 

The water outdoors may replace a pool, but there’s no replacement for summer’s safety measures. 

Rorvik said people should avoid rivers because they’re so unpredictable and there are no lifeguards like there are at pools and some lakes. 

If people are around water, he said wearing a well-fitted life jacket is a must, no matter how well a person swims. Accidents happen, cold water can shock the body and in any event, a life jacket could save a life.

Lastly, he said people should never go out on the water alone.