Dangerous waters: Coast Guardsman drowns in Trinity River

Dangerous waters: Coast Guardsman drowns in Trinity River

Sean Garmire/The Times-Standard
Posted: 04/24/2009 01:26:34 AM PDT

A 27-year-old Coast Guardsman was pronounced dead Wednesday afternoon after drowning in the Trinity River during what Coast Guard officials reported was an off-duty swimming accident.

A McKinleyville resident and recent father, Seaman James A. Salac traveled to Kimtu Beach along the Trinity River near Willow Creek with three of his friends, two of whom are Coast Guard employees, said Coast Guard Group Humboldt Bay spokesman Lt. Russ Merrick.

Deputy Coroner Roy Horton, who interviewed the three witnesses Thursday, learned Salac had attempted to swim across the river, but was likely overcome by the cold and the current.

The witnesses told Horton it was around 80 degrees in Willow Creek when they arrived, and the group all waded into the river. But upon discovering the water was cold and the current was moving swiftly, they decided to get out.

”It was hot and they all got in the water,” Horton said. “They were splashing around, but decided it was too cold.”

A large rock across the river from Kimtu Beach provides a popular sunning area where swimmers often jump into the Trinity River during the hot summer months. Horton said Salac was familiar with the swimming area, and in an effort to get to the rock, he walked upstream and began swimming across, intending for the current to pull him downstream as he crossed.

As Salac swam, he entered the middle of the channel and was quickly pulled under water.

”He wentunder, then came up again and made a sound,” Horton said. “Then he went down again and that was it.”

At 4:53 p.m., just after Salac disappeared in the current, his friends called 911, alerting authorities to the emergency. A Coast Guard helicopter was quickly deployed and arrived on scene, while Humboldt County Sheriff's Office deputies responded on the ground.

Salac was located downstream at Big Rock, nearly a half-mile away, Horton said. According to Merrick, Salac was pulled from the water just over 40 minutes after the 911 call was made.

Salac was flown to St. Joseph Hospital in Eureka, where he was later pronounced dead.

Alcohol is not considered a factor in Salac's death, Horton said. A toxicology report is pending.

According to Merrick, Salac is survived by his wife, Jaena Salac, and his 6-month-old daughter Jaeda. His wife was visiting family in the Philippines with their daughter when she received the news Wednesday night.

Merrick said the Coast Guard is sending a local employee and friend of Salac's to escort his family back to Humboldt County.

According to Merrick, Salac was a Coast Guard cook, but as a graduate of Coast Guard training, he was a proficient swimmer and underwent water survival training courses.

”He was physically fit and in shape,” Merrick said. “What he was dealing with yesterday -- swift, cold water -- there are so many other forces that came into play.”

Tom Haltom, spokesman for the California Water Sciences Center, said the Trinity River was around 56 degrees on Wednesday. The water, he said, was flowing at around 4,500 cubic feet per second -- more than four times the rate of flow from August through November of 2008.

Horton said when swimming in water as cold as the Trinity River's, a swimmer can become hypothermic “in a matter of a few minutes.”

A memorial fund for the Salac family has been set up by the Coast Guard. For more information, contact Merrick at 839-6114.


Has it really been 2 years already!?!

No Jeff... we don't beat our dogs!

It's Hanna's turn to be the patient!
We had been watching the neighbor pups all last week and everything was going fine. Our dogs are not best friends with Pup and Modoc... but they get along just fine. Sunday was our last day with them- and I think Hanna had had enough! All 4 of them were out back wanting to come inside with us- and I think there just wasn't enough room at the door for all of them to look in! All we heard was bark, bark yelp... and by the time we got outside it was already finished. At first it didn't look so bad- but it was pretty deep and separated the layers of skin. Our one neighbor was a vet tech and she said that its a prime spot for an abscess to set in... as well as the chance for internal damage if it went in too deep. We opted not to bring her in on a Sunday, but wait till Monday morning.

Sure enough she needed stitches and a drain put in to prevent infection! It looks so much worse now that she's shaved and has this tubing coming out! Poor girl!We go in for Ned's surgeon recheck on Saturday and we're hoping he gives us the green light for more exercise! So that as soon as Hanna is healed up we can get back to normal activity!

This better be the end of our vet visits for a while... a looong while!

Fresh Veggies!

We used our first fresh veggies from the garden the other day! The lettuce/spinach is the only thing ready for picking at the moment- but it is definitely plentiful!


I've been lazy

...with my blog posts! there's been lots of stuff going on to share though! So below is my catch up for the past few weeks!

I hope everyone had a fantastic Easter weekend! I'll have pictures of the CG Easter egg hunt up soon (hopefully!)

Spring is flying by! And we can't wait for summer and Ned's clean bill of health to get out and enjoy all that The North Coast has to offer! We have our "must do before we leave" list and are hoping to put a dent in it this summer!

My day with Kathryn!

I took Miss Kathryn to the zoo last week (Alex had duty so he missed out!) She was so funny- and such a ham for the camera! Dressed to a T- Head to toe PINK... all picked out by her- despite Jon trying to convince her otherwise! We did circles between the barnyard and inside the barn for about an hour! She told me all about the Flamingos, talked with the owls, and playing in the wishing well! Then she used her cute face and we ate lunch in the cafe! We both had a lot of fun!

getting back to normal

Ned is healing up nicely! He is now allowed short leashed walks! It's not much... but it's something! He is still not using his leg fully, the walks are supposed to help build up the muscle that he's lost so that it's easier and more comfortable. He's definitely feeling better and wanting to go-go-go- 3-legged! But all in all he's been really great through all of this! We're still carrying him up and down the stairs- and are looking forward to his recheck with the surgeon in 2 weeks!

Fun in the sun!

Last weekend was gorgeous! We spent all day Sunday outside in the sun!
We have some fabulous trees in the yard that are all flowers right now!

Fresh Veggies!

We've planted a veggie garden!
We've wanted one for a while now- but with the dogs and our limited sun space we never got around to it. So the other weekend we moved all of our calla's and other plants from one of the few spots that get sun all day and planted out vegetables! We've got a bunch of different kinds of lettuce, spinach, broccoli, tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, leeks, green beans, carrots, sugar snap and snow peas! Everything is still small.... but definitely growing!Mr. Ned was LOVING being out in the sunshine! (Hanna stayed up in the shade!) He seems to have adopted this corner of the garden! We've only planted small ground cover there- so hopefully it will survive!