A community is in mourning following the tragic drowning of a man whose body was pulled out of a Columbia River slough near Clatskanie.
The Columbia County Sheriff's Office says they recovered the body of Brant Hicks, age 35, on Saturday, five hours after he rescued his own son during a family fishing trip.
Hicks jumped into Wallace Slough to rescue the 2-year-old, who had fallen off a boat and into the frigid water. The boy, who was wearing a life jacket, was delivered back into the boat safely, but then Hicks went under and didn't resurface.
Hick's father-in-law, Larry Hurula of Clatskanie, was in the boat during the incident. He called 9-1-1 to report "man overboard" while Hicks' 9- and 10-year-old niece and nephew stood by.
Responders from the Coast Guard, Oregon State Police, Clatskanie Police and Fire, and Columbia River County searched the slough until they found Hicks' body at about 4:00 p.m., about 30 feet down river from where he had fallen in.
Officials say they believe Hicks was overcome by the strong current and temperature of the water, which is currently lingering between 46 and 47 degrees.
"Our hearts go out to this family in their loss," said Sheriff Jeff Dickerson.
"He died a hero, and he was a great father," said family member Cherokee Welter. "I was just out there, not even a week ago on that boat, I can't believe this happened to my family."
Meanwhile, the toddler was taken to St. John Hospital to be treated for hypothermia. He was released to his mother late in the afternoon.
"She just was in tears, and it made me cry just to look at her," said Welter. "This is all just hard, I was with him a couple days ago, he was talking about wanting another kid."
"He would've done anything for you, anything for his kids. He would've done anything for my kids," Noah McCleod, Hicks' brother-in-law, said. In regards to his son, McCleod said the boy will know the entire story. "He'll know how good his dad was. He'll be a hero."
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