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Two Years after Tragic Drownings Kids Still Swim in Dangerous River

The Iowa DNR says all watercraft and swimmers should avoid Iowa rivers as flood waters make them more and more dangerous by the hour. One Marshalltown mother knows how quickly things can go wrong in rushing waters. Her son was killed in the Iowa River. His body was recovered two years ago Friday.

We spotted these two teens fishing and swimming in the river just yards from where he went under.

“It gets like steep right there-ish,” says 14-year-old Jarad Dalgarn pointing to the river, his jeans and shirt soaked from swimming. “And then just runs flat till it gets under the bridge. But it’s very deep.”

We asked Dalgarn what he thought about it, that children were swept away and drowned in these same waters just two years ago. “I thought, um, I didn’t really think anything. I just thought about it,” Dalgarn replied.

Lori Pantoja thinks about it every day. Ten-year old Andreas Favela was her son. “His smile. The way he danced. He loved to dance. I miss him riding his bicycle. I don’t see him in the neighborhood riding around. I miss his friends coming over. Just him having a good time,” she says.

Two years ago Andreas’ body was pulled from the Iowa River. Less than three weeks later three children, two seven-year-olds and a nine-year-old drowned in the same area while their parents were fishing. Knowing that other kids are still swimming in the exact place where her son died Pantoja says, “It tears my heart out. I wouldn’t want any parent to go through what I’m going through. It’s not fun. It tears a big piece of your heart out.”

Some residents here in Marshalltown want to help make sure this doesn’t happen again. They’re raising money for splash pads to give kids an alternative to swimming in the swollen and dangerous Iowa River.

“We have a swimming pool, an aquatic center here, but there’s a lot of kids that can’t afford to go to it. So we need an alternative solution for cooling down,” says Mark Mitchell with Splash 4 Life.

“There’s gonna be four of them and they’re going to be on each side of town,” adds Sarah Readout, who is also with Splash 4 Life. “It’s gonna be in remembrance of the four children that passed away in 2012″

“Splash 4 life” has entered what’s called the “Ultimate Neighborhood Give Back Challenge”, where the winner can receive $50,000 towards a project like splash pads. Votes can be made online. “That’s the main thing is we just want safe places for our children to swim. Instead of the river,” Readout says.

She’s hoping it makes a difference. We asked Dalgarn whether he would stop swimming in the river now that he knows four children died there two years ago. His reply: “Maybe.”

To cast your vote for Splash 4 Life, you can log on to their facebook page, or you can make donations at any Wells Fargo Bank Branch.

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