POST FALLS - A 55-year-old Post Falls man drowned while swimming in the Spokane River at Corbin Park on Friday night, becoming the latest victim in the dangerous stretch below the Post Falls Dam.
The Press declined to release the name of the victim because the Kootenai County Sheriff's Department had not notified some family members as of press time on Friday night.
The victim's name will be released today.
After about two hours of searching, divers recovered the body in about 43 feet of water after Avista Utilities closed the spillgates of its Post Falls Dam about a half mile upstream to help the search, said KCSD Maj. Ben Wolfinger.
"There was too much volume of water coming down (for the divers to search initially)," Wolfinger said.
Bystanders reported that the victim was seen going under water at the east end of the park at 6:40 p.m. and the body was recovered at 8:40 p.m.
"The current was strong and he got sucked out in an eddy," Wolfinger said, adding that the man wasn't wearing a life jacket.
Wolfinger said there were no reports of the man yelling for help as the incident happened swiftly.
"Once he went down, he stayed down," Wolfinger said.
A male bystander attempted to reach the area the victim went under by using a cooler lid as a flotation device, but the victim couldn't be found.
The man had been swimming with his wife, Wolfinger said.
Wolfinger said it didn't appear alcohol was a factor based on the initial investigation, but an autopsy will be performed.
There have been several deaths or accidents in the river at the park in recent years.
"People don't understand how deep it is and the undertows," Wolfinger said.
While the search was going on, Wolfinger said multiple kayakers and rafters were seen in the river without life jackets on.
"Those people are just waiting to be the next victim," he said.
Wolfinger said that part of the river can be deceiving even when the dam's spillgates are shut.
Avista plans to close the gates of the dam completely this afternoon, barring any unforeseen circumstances. If that happens, the beach and boat launch at Q'emiln Park adjacent to the dam will open.