Hillary Fox, 07-17-02

8-year-old drowns in river
SOUTHWEST: Girls thought friend was just diving.

By Peter Porco
Anchorage Daily News

(Published: July 19, 2002)
An 8-year-old village girl drowned while swimming in the mouth of Goodnews River in Southwest Alaska, Alaska State Troopers said Thursday.

Hillary Fox of Goodnews Bay was in the river about 6:45 p.m. Wednesday when her companions, two other young girls, saw her vanish beneath the water, troopers said.

No adults were in the vicinity, they said. The girls, ages 7 and 9, hurried nearly a mile back to the village to summon help. The public safety officer coordinated a search as the tide ebbed.

About an hour later, Hillary's body was recovered from the river with a fishing net, troopers said. Attempts to revive her at the clinic failed, they said.

Hillary was a better swimmer than her companions and coaxed them into going to the river, said trooper Steve Lantz of the Bethel post, who conducted an investigation in Goodnews Bay, about 115 miles south of Bethel.

"Hillary told her mom she was going swimming," Lantz said Thursday. The girls entered the river at a spot where people keep their boats. Hillary's friends stood knee-deep in the water close to shore while she ventured farther out.

"She went into the deeper area, and they thought she was just diving until she didn't come up. And that's the extent of it," Lantz said.

The girl's body was being sent to the state medical examiner's office in Anchorage. Lantz, however, was sure of the cause of her death.

"I had no need for an autopsy," he said. "Everything at the scene said this little girl is the unfortunate victim of the river current there."

Goodnews Bay, population 230, is a predominantly Yup'ik Eskimo village 400 miles west of Anchorage.

The river is wide at its mouth and "seems fairly slow," said trooper 1st Sgt. Duke Ballard in Bethel. But flowing at 3-4 mph, the river would challenge even an excellent swimmer, he said.

The troopers' Bethel detachment handles several drownings every year, Ballard said. Figures were unavailable Thursday, but Ballard said he was reasonably sure that drowning victims include more adults than children.

Reporter Peter Porco can be reached at pporco@adn.com and at 907 257-4582.