By Sharon Salyer Herald Writer
ARLINGTON — Elijah Gene Spratt, the 10-year-old who died while swimming on the Stillaguamish River on Sunday afternoon, was described by his mother as having a stunning smile, sparkling blue eyes and an intense love of football.
Stephanie Spratt called her son “a caring, compassionate soul.
“He was such a special kid,” she said. “He would walk up to a stranger and try to become friends with them. Everyone who came into contact with him loved him.”
The accident occurred at Twin Rivers Park in Arlington just before 4 p.m. Sunday. Elijah was on an outing with his foster family.
“He was a very strong swimmer,” his mom said. “That was one of his passions. He loved to be in the water anytime he could.”
Elijah, who was playing in the river without a life jacket, was swept downstream for about a half mile before he was spotted and pulled from the river by rescue swimmers and divers. He was taken to Cascade Valley Hospital in Arlington where he died.
“I don’t want anyone to feel guilty over this,” Spratt said. “It wasn’t anybody’s fault. It was tragic accident.”
Elijah’s death marked the eighth drowning this year in Snohomish County and the second in the Stillaguamish River.
It was followed Monday one more death, the drowning of an 18-year-old man on the Skykomish River near Index.
Elijah spent the first eight years of his life growing up in Langley on Whidbey Island. He participated in a youth football team, the South Whidbey Falcons. “He was a fast, fast runner, and great at tackling,” his mom said.
Her son had just completed the fourth grade and had registered for another youth football team in the Arlington area, where his foster family lived. “He loved his foster parents,” his mom said.
“I will miss him so much,” Stephanie Spratt said. “He is engrained in my heart and soul forever.”
Spratt said she has long been an advocate of kids wearing lifejackets while in the water, one of the safety tips recommended by the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office.
Local rivers are cold and moving forcefully, making it difficult for people to safely swim even short distances.
Shawneri Guzman, coordinator of Safe Kids Snohomish County, said an adult should always be on the alert and within arm’s reach when children are in the water.
“Supervision is the key,” she said. “It takes less than a minute to drown.”
By the time people realize that a swimmer is in trouble, there’s often just seconds when they’re above the water before they go under, Guzman said.
Water safety isn’t just a problem for kids, she said. “It also happens every year to very experienced swimmers. We are not aware of the limitations of our ability.”
Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486 or firstname.lastname@example.org