Drowning, not injury, caused teen's death in Whatcom Creek

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDMay 8, 2013 

Creek Memorial

A makeshift memorial marks Whatcom Creek Wednesday, May 8, 2013, where Daniel Santiago Guerrero, 16, died after being swept under a swift current in Whatcom Falls Park Monday night. Guerrero jumped into the creek while swimming with friends but did not surface. He was later pronounced dead at the hospital.

PHILIP A. DWYER — THE BELLINGHAM HERALD Buy Photo

BELLINGHAM - An autopsy determined a Squalicum High School student was not injured when he drowned after jumping into Whatcom Creek earlier this week.

Daniel Santiago Guerrero, 16, suffered no outward injuries by leaping into the deceptively fast-moving and deep water, north of Whatcom Falls, at dusk on Monday, May 6.

The current beneath a 3-foot-tall cascade swept Guerrero under. He was healthy and strong, Whatcom County Medical Examiner Gary Goldfogel said Wednesday.

Joe Lalonde - a parks employee and volunteer photographer for the Bellingham Fire Department - heard the rescue call on his fire pager. He ran into the swirling water. As he neared the center of the swimming hole, he could no longer stand. He's about 5-foot-6. Lalonde could not pull out Guerrero until a firefighter arrived to help.

By the time firefighters performed CPR on shore, it was too late, Goldfogel said. Guerrero was pronounced dead at St. Joseph hospital.

Grief counselors were available to speak with students at Squalicum High School this week.

Yellow flowers and handwritten notes had been left on a rock by the swimming hole on Wednesday.

Since January 2004, the Bellingham Fire Department has responded to 19 calls requesting medical aid in or along the water at Whatcom Falls Park.

By comparison, in the same time frame firefighters responded to 12 water-related incidents in Lake Padden, and another 12 calls in the waters surrounding Bloedel Donovan Park.

Reach Caleb Hutton at 360-715-2276 or caleb.hutton@bellinghamherald.com. Read his dispatcher blog at blogs.bellinghamherald.com/dispatcher or follow him on Twitter at @bhamcrime.

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