Sunset Falls cascades down the Skykomish River east of Index in February 2014. Two men drowned there Saturday. (Mark Mulligan / Herald file)

Sunset Falls cascades down the Skykomish River east of Index in February 2014. Two men drowned there Saturday. (Mark Mulligan / Herald file)

Deaths of two in Skykomish River brings safety to forefront

The men were reportedly not wearing life jackets or helmets when they went tubing Saturday.

GOLD BAR — Two men were believed to be camping by Sunset Falls before they went tubing in the Skykomish River without life vests or helmets and drowned.

Bystanders saw the two men in the water Saturday and called authorities, Snohomish County Fire District 26 Chief Eric Andrews said.

Around 2 p.m., the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office sent Search and Rescue units to the Cable Drop Trail near Sunset Falls, the agency reported. Responders pulled the men from the river to attempt CPR, but they had died. Authorities don’t know how long they were there, Andrews said.

The men, one 56 and the other 54, were from the Seattle and Kirkland areas. They did not have identification on them, Andrews said. The county medical examiner’s office will identify them and determine the cause of death.

Andrews said water rescues have escalated over the past few years, but this season is no worse than past summers. A 4-year-old boy was found dead in the Skykomish River late last month. Among children 14 and under, drowning is the second leading cause of “unintentional injury-related death,” according to the sheriff’s office.

A 58-year-old woman died in the Stillaguamish River around the same time. She reportedly jumped into the water without a life jacket. The sheriff’s office urged people Monday not to dive into Snohomish County waterways, saying two-thirds of catastrophic neck injuries occur in the water.

“People don’t know what’s downriver,” Andrews said. “All of a sudden it turns into rapid water.”

“There are safe spots, but they move very quickly to bad spots,” he added.

Water temperatures in local creeks and rivers are around 50 degrees, according to the sheriff’s office. Swimmers should bring whistles to alert bystanders if they are in trouble.

Andrews noted that helmets are just as important as life jackets. Swimmers can easily get hit in the head and suffer injuries that otherwise wouldn’t be fatal. But in the water, they could drown.

The huge recreation population this summer also needs to make sure the equipment they’re using won’t pose problems, Andrews said. Makeshift innertubes from a tire shop or inexpensive ones from convenience stores can easily get punctured and deflate.

Jake Goldstein-Street: 425-339-3439; Twitter: @GoldsteinStreet.

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