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Vancouver boy, 11, drowns near Lacamas Lake

Swimming accident in Potholes area claims life

The Columbian
Published: July 19, 2011, 12:00am
2 Photos
A police officer surveys an area known as the Potholes where an 11-year-old Vancouver boy drowned Tuesday afternoon in Camas.
A police officer surveys an area known as the Potholes where an 11-year-old Vancouver boy drowned Tuesday afternoon in Camas. Witnesses told police that the boy jumped into the water in search of a "pop bottle." Photo Gallery

CAMAS — An 11-year-old Vancouver boy drowned Tuesday afternoon after a swimming accident in an area known as the Potholes south of Round Lake, authorities said.

Authorities said Anthony A. Seitz had been with three children. They told police Anthony jumped into the water after a pop bottle around 2:30 p.m., said Detective Carol Buck with the Camas Police Department. Moments later, they witnessed him bob up and down in the water before sliding beneath the surface. One of the children used a cellphone to call authorities.

A dive team recovered the boy’s body around 4:30 p.m.

Witnesses initially told 911 dispatchers the victim was 14, but investigators later clarified that he was 11.

Investigators are still piecing together how the boy and his friends arrived at the area and what might have caused him to drown. Foul play is not suspected, Buck said.

Tuesday’s accident marked the third drowning in Southwest Washington this summer.

Battle Ground police officer Michael M. Molzahn, 41, of Battle Ground drowned July 3 while swimming in the Columbia River. The next day, Jesus Orlando Gomez Beltran, 16, of Woodland drowned in Woodland’s Horseshoe Lake.

According to the state’s Center for Health Statistics, in Clark County there were 10 drownings in 2009, the most recent year available. There were 54 drownings here between 2000 and 2009.

Jumping from cliffs

The Potholes area where Tuesday’s drowning occurred is a popular summer destination known for its waterfalls and hollowed out rocks containing bowl-shaped pools of water. Visitors jump off nearby cliff areas into the water some 25 to 30 feet below.

This can often be more dangerous than it first appears due to varying water levels, the swiftness of currents and the coldness of the water, law enforcement and local residents said.

“It’s swift-moving water,” said Sgt. Chuck Nadgwick of the Camas Police Department. “People don’t realize that when they’re jumping in … and then when it’s moving at a pretty good clip, you’re fighting it.”

The area where Tuesday’s drowning happened is no stranger to tragedy, residents who live near Lacamas Lake said.

Doug Espinosa, 19, of Camas has spent summer days at the Potholes since he was old enough to swim. As he looked across the street at fire trucks and emergency response vehicles, Espinosa said he thought Tuesday’s dreary conditions would have prevented people from going into the


The mere sight of fire trucks and emergency response vehicles wasn’t a surprise,


In search of danger

Visitors often take unnecessary risks when jumping off the ledge becomes mundane, Espinosa said. Participants climb a tree to gain more height on their jumps or they jump from behind the waterfall over a section of rocks, he added.

Such actions increase the possibility of jumping into shallow water or an area where the water current is unknown.

“If you don’t go out there a lot, it could be dangerous, depending on the spot,” Espinosa said. He added he takes precautions by checking the spot he plans to jump into.

Tyson Anderson, 23, of Camas learned about the accident when his aunt told him a helicopter was in the area. He went outside and saw the dive team preparing to search for the victim.

Anderson said he avoids jumping off the ledge Espinosa mentioned due to the risk inherent in such an act. Like Espinosa, he said he has seen first-responder vehicles near the Potholes on several occasions.

“It’s a very cool place to swim and play, but, at the same time, it’s dangerous,” Anderson said. “A lot of people do stupid stuff they shouldn’t be


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