POST FALLS - A 43-year-old Post Falls man drowned while snorkeling in the Spokane River near Corbin Park Thursday morning.
Wayne O. Pennington Jr. was swimming by himself, just upstream from the park's boat launch, when he ran into trouble, the Kootenai County Sheriff's Department said in a press release.
Sheriff's department divers and marine units found him floating downstream about one-quarter mile below the Pleasant View Bridge, nearly a mile from Corbin Park.
The sheriff's department said initial reports of the drowning were received about 11 a.m. Witnesses reported hearing Pennington call for help from the river.
Lance Carpenter, 20, who was at the park to float the river, sprang into action from his vehicle in the park's parking lot.
After spotting Pennington in the river, Carpenter, of Spokane Valley, jumped into the fast-moving water and swam full speed across the river to the south bank.
"If I was in the water face down, I would expect that at least one good Samaritan would try and save me," Carpenter said. "It's the 'Golden Rule.' I went out there with my heart. It's just humanity."
Carpenter was about 7 feet from Pennington's body, which was caught up in the currents. His body eventually was released and floated downstream.
Carpenter didn't jump back into the water and pull Pennington to the bank because he didn't have enough strength left to withstand the moving water, and was feeling light headed and nauseated, he said. Paramedics told him he was in shock, he said.
"I wanted to jump back in there and grab him," he said. "I wish I could have done something more."
After emergency personnel pulled Pennington from the river near Pleasant View, they started CPR, but he was unresponsive.
He was taken by boat back to Corbin Park, where he was transferred to a waiting ambulance. He was then taken to Kootenai Medical Center.
CPR was still in progress when he left Corbin Park.
Sheriff's spokesman Maj. Ben Wolfinger said, "The Spokane River below the Post Falls dam is very dangerous to swimmers and boaters at this time. There is still more than 10,000 cubic feet of water per second coming down the river today."
He said the current is very strong and there are dangerous undertows that cannot be seen from the surface.
He said people are urged to stay out of the water below the dam until it is fully closed.
In June of last year, a 28-year-old Spirit Lake man drowned in the river at Corbin Park while canoeing with a friend. The body in that incident also was found about a mile downstream from the park.