A 17-year-old South Kitsap High School student is presumed dead after falling into a river around 9:30 a.m. Friday near the the southeast corner of Mount Rainier National Park, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.
Josh Osborn, who played on the school’s football team last year as a sophomore, is the subject of search-and-rescue operation, according to South Kitsap School District assistant superintendent Dave Colombini.
Colombini, who said officials at the high school became aware that Osborn was the missing student through social media, reached out Monday to the family.
“We’re just trying to give them support and find out if there’s anything we can do,” he said.
Lewis County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Stacy Brown said the teenager was taking photos when he slipped and fell into the fast-moving Ohanapecosh River near the Cedar Grove campground. His friends tried to reach him with a stick while he was caught in an eddy, but Osborn was swept further downstream into a fast-moving chute.
County searchers and park rangers have not been able to locate the teenager. Lewis County Sheriff’s Department Chief Deputy Gene Seiber said they are conducting daily checks on the river. He said the Ohanapecosh, a glacial-fed river that is the main headwater tributary of the Cowlitz River, is six feet higher than normal summer levels because of snow melt.
Seiber said Monday that conditions are “too bad right now” to send out the county’s Swift Water Rescue Team, which already has conducted a search for Osborn.
He estimated that the water where Osborn fell in the river was at or below 40 degrees. That combined with the area’s terrain — there are steep canyons in the river — and the current, Seiber said, make the teenager’s chances for survival low.
Seiber said he is aware of at least five drownings in the Ohanapecosh in recent years. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report stated there were an average of 3,533 fatal unintentional drownings — non-boating related — each year from 2005-09.
On the same day Osborn disappeared, a drowning occurred at 4:30 p.m. at Alder Lake, which is bordered by Lewis, Thurston and Pierce counties. The News Tribune identified that 18-year-old as Rashawn Hale-Moody.
There have been three confirmed drownings this year in Lewis County. A 46-year-old drowned April 26 as he dove into Mayfield Lake to retrieve a boat adrift. A 5-year-old Tacoma boy died May 27 in the Cispus River, and a 17-year-old Tacoma male drown June 13 in the Chehalis River.
Colombini said Osborn attended East Port Orchard Elementary School and Marcus Whitman Junior High School before moving onto the high school.