After tumbling headfirst down a 15-foot, rocky waterfall, Robert Brown could feel the blood beginning to cover his face. But when considering why he fell, Brown said he would have done it again.
Brown and his family, of Vancouver, were at Lucia Falls Regional Park on Sunday afternoon when his son Michael Brown, 12, slipped on some rocks into the East Fork of the Lewis River. The river’s current carried him toward the waterfall, prompting his father to leap toward him.
“I just didn’t think there was any option. I had to go in after my son,” Robert Brown said. “I love my son, so I wouldn’t have changed a thing.”
North Country EMS was dispatched to the falls at 3:56 p.m., Chief Shaun Ford said. Robert Brown, 52, was taken to PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center in Vancouver, where he was listed in satisfactory condition Monday afternoon, according to a hospital spokesman.
He suffered three large cuts to his face, requiring 36 stitches, and a possible hairline fracture in his neck, he said. He is hoping to be discharged Wednesday.
As the family enjoyed a day at the falls, Michael Brown asked if he could traverse some rocks over the river, his father said. After he was granted permission, the boy slipped and fell into the water.
Robert Brown was standing on a rock roughly 45 feet downstream. He figured his son would be able to gather his footing in the shallow water but became concerned as the current quickened.
He reached out to grab his son but came up short. Then, he noticed his son was beginning to fall deeper under water as the waterfall loomed another 45 feet downstream.
“It was enough in my mind where I had to jump out and get him,” Brown said. “I’m forming some sort of rescue plan in my mind.”
But the two were unable to connect and eventually went over the falls. After hitting a pool below, Michael Brown swam to shore, with only a scratch and a bruise.
As Robert Brown went down, however, he collided with a rock and immediately felt the repercussions after landing.
“I could feel something wet on my face that wasn’t water,” he said. “Thankfully, I didn’t lose consciousness at all.”
With some help from others at the falls, he slowly made his way to shore. Fire and medical crews stabilized his neck and placed him on a backboard before he was taken to the hospital.
Holding their infant child, his wife, Amy Brown, watched the near-tragedy unfold. She said her mind went into a state of “emergency calm” before she found that her husband and son had not lost consciousness.
“Unbelievable, really,” she said. “It’s just an absolute miracle.”
Reflecting nearly a full day later, Robert Brown remembered seeing people jump in the river shortly before the incident. He said he has been on rapids before and appreciates the potentially deadly power of water.
“I was telling my son that that’s how accidents happen, and here we end up being the accident,” he said. “It’s nothing to play around with.”
The family has set up a GoFundMe page for Robert Brown’s medical bills. His wife said she hopes others will not endure a similar fate at the falls.
“We so badly want to tell people to be careful on those rocks,” she said.
Amy Brown also said she appreciates her husband’s “selfless act.”
“His face is going to be banged up pretty badly,” she said. “But when I see those scars, I’ll be reminded of the brave act of heroism he took to save our son.”