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July 11, 2013
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Winston woman recovered from South Umpqua River dies at Portland hospital

WINSTON — A 31-year-old Winston woman who was submerged in the South Umpqua River for several minutes Wednesday has died at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, a hospital spokesman said.

Natasha Brooks was with her three children and a family friend’s child at a swimming hole at Riverbend Park when she went under the surface, Winston police said. Witnesses said she was under the water for five to seven minutes before being brought to the surface by a passer-by.

Brooks was taken by ambulance to Mercy Medical Center in Roseburg and transferred to OHSU, where she was admitted in critical condition. She died Thursday afternoon, the hospital spokesman said.

The drowning was the second of the week in Douglas County. Alicar Romero Lopez-Herrera, 34, of Van Nuys, Calif., drowned Sunday in the Umpqua River near the Yellow Creek boat ramp off Highway 138 West.

Rivers are a popular place to beat the heat, but swimmers should be mindful of the dangers, Douglas County sheriff’s spokesman Dwes Hutson said.

“First and foremost, we recommend if people swim in the river, they should wear safety vests,” he said.

Police said Brooks was playing in the water when one of the children was swept by the current into deeper water. The child managed to swim to safety, but meanwhile another one of the children had slipped into the deeper water.

Brooks attempted to push him upstream to safety when she went under the water. The child, who was hanging onto her, managed to reach shallow water, police said.

Emergency crews worked to revive her on the riverbank before she was taken away by ambulance.

Nikki Pierce, 24, of Myrtle Creek, who said she was Brooks’ sister-in-law, said she, Brooks and their children had been at the river for only about 20 minutes before the accident occurred.

Bystanders were alerted to a woman in the water by children screaming for help. A man who was walking his dogs at the park dove into water about 10 feet deep to reach Brooks and bring her to the surface.

Hutson said rivers present dangers such as strong currents, varying water levels, rocks and debris. There should be enough adults to closely watch children, Hutson said. “It only takes a second for something bad to happen.”

Swimmers should also be mindful that river temperatures tend to drop as they move upstream, east of Roseburg, Hutson warned. Swimmers should know their limits and not attempt to keep up with companions who might have an easier time swimming in rivers.

Hutson said that people should also limit their alcohol consumption when swimming. It impairs judgment, affects balance and makes people tire more quickly.

• Reporter Jessica Prokop can be reached at 541-957-4209 or jprokop@nrtoday.com.

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The News-Review Updated Jul 22, 2013 10:01AM Published Jul 11, 2013 12:15PM Copyright 2013 The News-Review. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.