6-year-old girl missing in frigid Oregon river

January 24, 2012 - 12:15 AM
Girl Swept Away

The Clackamas River runs fast Monday, Jan. 23, 2012, near where 6-year-old Vinesa Snegur on Sunday had fallen into the stream and was swept on downriver in Mount Hood National Forest, near Estacada, Ore. The water temperature Monday morning was just above freezing, and the river is carrying a heavy load of trees and roots, imperiling rescue workers, police said. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

ESTACADA, Ore (AP) — 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 into the river Sunday afternoon. The waterway is running fast and cold from a recent winter storm.

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.

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.

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.

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.