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Richland witness shares account of possible drowning at Palouse Falls

Richland witness shares account of possible drowning accident at Palouse Falls

TRI-CITIES, Wash. – Palouse Falls State Park is still closed as authorities are searching for the body of a swimmer who went missing over the weekend.

RELATED | Palouse Falls closed until body of missing swimmer is found

A Richland man who witnessed the possible drowning and took video of the dangerous conditions sat down with Action News to explain what he saw.

"That's crazy. People swimming out there in that water," Herb Girton said in a video he took at Palouse Falls on Saturday.

Girton hiked down to the outside of the plunge pool and was taking video of the waterfall.

"It was treacherous the whole time,” Girton told Action News. "The whole entire plunge pool was all pure white caps, even 25 yards out from the waterfall was still at least 4 foot waves."

Girton visited Palouse Falls State Park for the very first time on Saturday.

"I didn't expect anyone to be swimming, or expect any one to be hurt," he said.

At the time he took the video of men swimming in the plunge pool, he didn't know what was happening.

"When I went to go touch the water to rinse my hands off, the water was freezing cold and I thought, these guys are crazy," Girton said.

His video goes on, capturing the surrounding view of the waterfall. Later he realized two swimmers who got out of the water were panicking about a missing friend. No one had cell phone service down below.

That’s when he and others began hiking back up as fast as they could to get reception, but it took at least 15 to 20 minutes before they could call 911.

"I mean even a minute under the water,” Girton said. “Where was he?"

Days later, Girton said he still hasn't processed what happened.

"It was a beautiful day, having fun, and then someone passes away,” he said. “You don’t think anything like that would happen."

Since witnessing this tragic accident, he's sharing a message of caution and safety, urging people to be vigilant when hiking outdoors.

"I want to let people know to be weary of the signs they read anytime they trek out to go hiking, camping, or whatever you may do,” he said. “Always be weary of your surroundingss because you never know if that one step you may take will be your last step.

"So be cautious, be careful, especially when you're going around waterfalls,” he added. “Mother nature is more powerful than you think it is."

Girton wants the Engell family to know that he's sorry for the loss of their son Isaac.

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