Officials issue warning after death of 2 young siblings swept away by river in San Bernardino County

A 4-year-old girl and a 2-year-old boy died after they were swept by the fast-moving river during an outing with their mother.

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Thursday, May 9, 2024
2 siblings die during outing with mother after being swept by river
Authorities said Tuesday it took the mother about an hour to call 911 due to limited cell service in the area.

MENTONE, Calif. (KABC) -- A mother is dealing with an unimaginable loss after her two children - ages 4 and 2 - died after being swept away in the swift-moving waters of a river in San Bernardino County.

The incident happened around 3 p.m. Tuesday in Mill Creek near the Thurman Flats Picnic Area on Highway 38 outside of Mentone. The mother was there with her 4-year-old daughter and her 2-year-old son.

It's a tragic situation
San Bernardino County Fire Department Battalion Chief Michael McClintock

"It's tough," said San Bernardino County Fire Department Battalion Chief Michael McClintock. "It's a tragic situation, and many of us are parents, and it's really hard on our firefighters, especially because these are our people."

According to the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department, the mother was attending to her son when her daughter was taken downstream.

The mother then hiked up to the picnic area and contacted another family member to help, but they couldn't find the children. Authorities said Tuesday it took the mother about an hour to call 911 due to limited cell service in the area.

"What the mom told our first fire captain was that her 4-year-old had been swept away, and she was unable to find that person," said McClintock. "Unfortunately, she was unable to call 911, so there was a delay in activating the system, and at the point, we had responded and showed up, both the kids were unaccounted for."

According to the fire department, the mother told them the little girl went into the water first. Since she wasn't able to call 911, she went after the girl but was unable to rescue her.

That's when she came back to discover her 2-year-old son had gone missing. Firefighters said the mother appeared to have suffered scrapes and other injuries from trying to rescue her daughter.

A desperate search

Crews first found the girl and rushed her to the hospital. Shortly after, they found the boy. They were both found near the river's edge, according to authorities.

The girl was sent to Redlands Community Hospital by ambulance while the boy was airlifted to Loma Linda University Medical Center. They were pronounced dead Tuesday evening.

As summer approaches, the Thurman Flats Picnic Area will likely become a popular spot for those seeking a relief from the intense heat so officials are issuing a warning.

"Drowning is the leading cause of death for kids from 1 to 4 years old, with 4,000 [deaths] a year, which is about 11 a day," said McClintock. "The biggest thing we can do is at pools at home to have natural barriers, make sure they're supervised, and when going to lakes and rivers, really make sure we're watching our kids."

"Don't underestimate the water," she added. "It can sweep you off your feet pretty quick."

The incident remains under investigation.