Ed Newsom celebrated his 63rd birthday tubing on the Green River.
It was nearly his last.
What’s up with that?
Newsom was enjoying a leisurely float down the river when he was knocked off his tube by a log and swept underwater by the current. Trapped in the cold darkness, he couldn’t breathe and everything turned black.
“There was no flashing light, no light at the end of the tunnel, no Jesus standing there with a bottle of water,” he said. “The last thing I remember is thinking of my two kids, and then I just let go.”
His son, Johnryan Newsom, 16, was about 50 feet ahead at the time with his friend, Arturo Salinas, also 16.
Johnryan attempted to warn his dad about the big log after feeling the current around it.
“I was yelling at him but he couldn’t hear me,” Johnryan said. “I saw him hit the log with his feet and he pretty much flipped over.”
Then his dad disappeared.
Spoiler alert: The two teens saved his life.
“Those are my two heroes,” Newsom said. “They brought me back.”
It was a breath away from being a tragedy.
Newsom was transported to MultiCare Auburn Medical Center.
“Next thing I know I’ve got tubes in my throat, wires hanging all over me, I felt like Frankenstein,” Newsom said.
That was June 24. He was released two days later to recover at his home in Lynnwood.
“Sore and bruised up,” he said. “My mind kept racing and going back to being under the water.”
The bruises have faded from his chest where his son pounded him.
Johnryan didn’t have CPR training. “I just watched a lot of movies growing up,” he said.
Newsom was wearing jeans, tennis shoes and a T-shirt as protection from the sun and rocks when he went tubing, as he does every year, in the Black Diamond area of the Green River in south King County. His brother lives on a remote stretch of the river and was hosting a birthday barbecue for him. His daughter and other friends were there for the party. It was early in the afternoon when the tubers started at a park about a mile down river, with plans to get off at the house.
“We’ve been up and down that river for years,” Newsom said.
He wasn’t wearing a lifejacket and says he never has while tubing on the river.
“Probably wouldn’t have helped, but it probably wouldn’t have hurt,” he said.
He said he plans to wear a life jacket if he ever goes in the river again.
Safety officials recommend life jackets be worn in and around open water.
King County Public Health reported that of the 23 open water drowning deaths in 2020, the majority could have been prevented by wearing a life jacket. The Washington State life jacket loaner program has locations where you can borrow one for free.
A 21-year-old man died in the Green River near Enumclaw in May after trying to rescue his girlfriend, who was caught in the rapids.
Newsom got lucky.
Saving Newsom involved teamwork by Johnryan and Arturo, who are Mariner High School juniors and good friends since meeting in fifth-grade woodshop class.
After seeing his dad go under, Johnryan went through waist-high water to the log and dove under in search of him.
“I thought he was stuck under the log. I told my friend to go get help,” he said.
On his way across the water to shore, Arturo found Newsom about 20 yards away, floating on his back.
“I could barely stand up because of the current. I started giving him CPR. He threw up a little water,” said Arturo, who had CPR training.
He could hear gurgling in his chest and felt a pulse.
But not for long.
“He started turning green,” Arturo said. “His eyes were red and not blinking. His mouth was open.”
Arturo sought help while Johnryan took over CPR for what seemed a long time.
“He wasn’t breathing,” he said.
He supported his father with his knees to keep him above water. The teen’s legs were numb from the cold water. He wore swim trunks, not jeans like his dad.
Johnryan is 6 feet tall and strong. He’s on the varsity football team at Mariner. He’s used to hard workouts. This was the hardest ever.
He pushed on his dad’s chest and pounded on it. Though fueled by adrenaline, he grew tired and was ready to give up.
“He started breathing the last time I was going to try,” Johnryan said. “I was looking up at the sky thinking, ‘God.’ Praying. He started blinking.”
Newsom said that’s when he regained consciousness.
The King County Sheriff’s Office responded to the call.
A rescue boat took Newsom to the other side of the water, where there was a road. He was transported to the hospital by ambulance.
“At my uncle’s house, we all saw the helicopter and we heard the sirens,” said his daughter, Katieanne, 18. “We didn’t think much of it until my brother came in with the policeman.”
She was able to visit her dad in the ICU.
“It was scary,” Katieanne said. “He was sedated and using a breathing machine.”
This is the second time Newsom has avoided death.
“When I was a child, 9 or 10, I was walking my bike across the street on Aurora and I was run over by a Jeep,” he said.
Newsom served four years as a U.S. Marine and retired from working in security and production manufacturing. “A regular jack of all trades,” he said. He took a job washing dishes at Shawn O’Donnell’s American Grill and Irish Pub in Everett two months ago.
Johnryan, who lives with his mom in Everett, started working there last week.
Father and son were close before. Now they’re even closer.
“He pulled my fat ass out of the water,” Newsom said. “I felt like I ruined the party for everyone. No 16-year-olds should have to go through something like that.”
Johnryan isn’t trying to milk his dad for anything, except permission to get a tattoo when he turns 17 — with Japanese letters that symbolize “family, courage and strength.”
Newsom is taking his kids and their friends to the Figure 8 National races at Evergreen Speedway in Monroe on Saturday.
Every day’s a celebration of turning 63.
“My brother asked me what I’m going to do for my 64th birthday and I said, ‘Not tubing,’” he said.