Child swept away by the creek in Los Angeles
the only finding is a shoe
Lindsy Doan didn’t think the water flowing over the creek crossing on San Marcos Road was deeper than normal when she tried navigating it in her SUV while driving her 5-year-old son (Kyle) to school.
Unfortunately, due to the rain from California’s epic winter storms, the creek was much higher and flowing stronger than she anticipated. Doan cursed as she lost control of the steering and the 4,300-pound (1,950-kilogram) Chevy Traverse was carried off the road and pinned against a large sycamore tree.
More than 100 people, including National Guard troops, dive teams, searchers using dogs and drones and people picking through shoulder-high piles of driftwood on the banks of San Marcos Creek searched for a third day Wednesday for Kyle. So far, they’ve found only one of his blue and gray Nike shoes.
Kyle’s last words said to his mother
“Mom, it’s OK,” her son, Kyle, reassured her from the back seat. “Just be calm.”
They were the last words the little boy said to his mother before his fingers slipped away from hers and he was swept away Monday on California’s central coast near Paso Robles.
“Yesterday I got to the point where I think I ran out of tears,” Doan told The Associated Press. “I just don’t know what to expect anymore. I mean, I’ve tried to do a Google search: How long can a child not eat? How long can they be in wet clothes? … We’re worried because I don’t know if they’re going to be able to find him.”
the dynamics of tragedy
As vacation came to an end, Kyle was excited to return to kindergarten Monday at Lillian Larsen Elementary School, his mother said. It was the first day he was going to be allowed to play without restrictions after recovering from a broken leg that required three surgeries and he was looking forward to seeing his friends.
The Doan family drove the same route Sunday to a truck stop on Highway 101, splashing through the waters without incident.
When Doan approached Monday in light rain, there were no road closures and she didn’t think it looked any different from the day before.
“But as soon as I hit the bottom, my car started to drift and I realized that it wasn’t the same,” she said. “It was completely different.”
After Doan’s car came to a rest against the trees it began taking on water, so she decided to abandon it. The windows wouldn’t go down, but she was able to open her door and hug a tree. With the current pinning the rear door closed, she told Kyle to leave his belongings and climb into the front seat.
“I don’t care about your backpack,” said Kyle’s mum “I just want you to come to me.”
She was able to grab his hand but her grip was tenuous and the current swept Kyle around the other side of the tree.
“I could feel his fingers slipping from mine,” she said.
As the water pulled them apart, she let go of the tree to try to get her son, who couldn’t swim.
The fundamental help
Neil Collins and his wife, Danielle, who own an orchard off San Marcos Road had gone down to the creek that morning to see if they would be able to get out across the floodwaters.
Collins missed seeing Doan drive into the creek. But her screams caught his attention.
“I looked at my wife and said, ‘That sounds like a human,’” he said. “I heard a second scream and just ran up the river.”
In a typical winter, the river may be waist deep, but he guessed it was up to 12 feet (3.6 meters) deep and four times its width when it’s running.
After he spotted Lindsy Doan struggling to stay afloat, Collins noticed another body floating in the middle of the creek and thought it looked lifeless. So he focused on Doan, who was closer to shore.
He ran alongside her downstream while his wife called 911 and some orchard workers brought a rope. Eventually, Doan managed to grab some branches of bushes underwater and Collins and his crew tossed her a life line.
Doan was hysterical when she made it to shore, Collins said. It was only then that he realized the other figure that washed by was her little boy.
Brian Doan, Kyle’s dad, is grateful his wife was saved. He doesn’t fault her for driving that route and thinks she did the right things to try to save their son.
Lindsy Doan can’t stop second-guessing herself.