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'A second of inattention': Icy river sweeps girl, 6, away from father

Rescue crews continue to search for a 6-year-old Oregon girl that has been missing since Sunday, when she fell into the icy Clackamas River. KGW-TV's Mark Hanrahan reports.

 

ESTACADA, Ore. -- An Oregon man raced along the rain-swollen Clackamas River but couldn't keep up with his 6-year-old daughter who had fallen into the stream and was swept downriver, authorities said.

Rescue workers searched without success Monday for Vinesa Snegur, who fell Sunday into the river, running fast and cold from a recent winter storm.


The Clackamas County sheriff's office said the search would resume Tuesday.

"It was just a second of inattention," sheriff's Sgt. James Rhodes said of the little girl's fall, explaining that her father turned away, "then splash, and she fell in. He ran and tried to keep up with her, but he was unable to."

Rhodes said the girl and her parents, Igor and Marina Snegur, are from southeast Portland and drove Sunday to play in the snow. They parked near Austin Hot Springs in the Mount Hood National Forest where a road is close to the stream.

The spot is about 60 miles southeast of Portland. There's no cell service, and the family couldn't call for help until they got to a phone at a ranger station an hour later, Rhodes said.

Rick Bowmer / AP

A member of the Multnomah County Sheriff Search and Rescue team searches along the Clackamas River for 6-year-old Vinesa Snegur on Monday.

The water temperature Monday was just above freezing, and the river is carrying a heavy load of trees and roots, imperiling rescue workers, he said.

About 50 ground searchers and divers suspended their search at nightfall Monday. A helicopter with thermal imaging equipment also was used to scan the river.

Purple jacket, pink hat
Steve Duin, who joined the search and wrote about it in a column for The Oregonian, said that by noon Monday about 50 people had joined the search, including divers in the water and relatives of the child, who was wearing a purple jacket, pink hat and white pants when she fell.

"Flares have been set out on the road into Austin Hot Springs, the smoke drifting over the divers and the bridge. The black ice is long gone as I slide down the hill, but I slow each time the river comes into view, searching for a blink of purple or pink somewhere," he wrote.

The Oregonian reported that Vinesa's parents were still on the mountain "surrounded by family and trauma specialists" late on Monday.

A series of storms stretching from coast to coast brought snow and ice to the Pacific Northwest, grounded planes in Chicago and 2012's first snow to the Northeast. NBC's Bill Karins and the Weather Channel's Mike Seidel report.

At Vinesa's Mill Park Elementary School, about 140 students visited a special 21-person crisis counseling team Monday, The Oregonian reported. Barbara Kienle, students services director, said half a dozen employees, including some of Vinesa's teachers, also talked to counselors.

"She has many friends," Principal Rolando Florez told the newspaper. "There were lots of sad kids in her class today."

Like many streams in western Oregon, the Clackamas River is swollen by heavy rain that fell late last week as a winter storm moved into the region. The storm caused flooding in many communities in the Willamette Valley.

A mother and her 1-year-old son died after a creek swept away their car from an Albany, Ore., parking lot. A father and his son were able to escape.

Most streams have receded, but more rain is been forecast this week in western Oregon, raising the possibility of more floods.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.