Oregon Girl, 6, Swept Down Swollen River

Divers say the girl likely couldn't have traveled more than 4 miles downstream.

January 24, 2012, 1:43 PM

Jan. 24, 2012— -- Rescue teams are searching a frigid Oregon river today for a 6-year-old girl who fell in and was swept downstream while playing in the snow.

Vinesa Snegur, a first-grader in Portland, had traveled to a remote part of Mt. Hood National Park with her parents Sunday to play in the snow, when Snegur accidentally tumbled into the Clackamas River, according to Clackamas County Sheriff Sgt. James Rhodes.

"They were close to the river's edge, and the river here is almost at flood stage and is 33 degrees, and he [the father] looked away for just a moment, he said, and his daughter fell into the river," Rhodes said.

The Portland area has been hit with rain, snow, and sleet, swelling the river to its banks in recent weeks, the sheriff said.

Igor Snegur, the girl's father, chased after his daughter, running three-quarters of a mile down the river bank, but couldn't catch up with her and finally lost sight of her altogether, Rhodes said.

He and his wife, Marina, searched the area without success for the girl, before getting back into their vehicle to go call for help. There was no cell phone service in the remote part of the park, Rhodes said. The couple drove seven miles until they reached a ranger station, from which they dialed 911.

Searchers arrived Sunday night at the park to look for the girl in a four-mile stretch of river downstream from where she entered the water, Rhodes said. Searchers, including diver teams and a helicopter using infrared, scoured the area again Monday and today.

Rhodes said that the police would search another four miles downstream from the incident before reassessing whether to continue the dragnet. Divers had reported that the large amount of debris in the river would have blocked someone from traveling too far down the water without hitting an obstruction.

Rhodes said the mission is still a search effort, and not a recovery effort, but that the odds of Snegur surviving diminish as time passes.

The river runs from Mt. Hood down to Oregon City, he said, noting that the place where Vinesa fell in is about 30 miles outside of the nearest town, which is already in a remote area. The weather, a mix of rain and snow, has posed challenges to searching, he said.

More than 75 volunteer searches traveled to the mountain Sunday, and 50 searchers have continued the effort Monday and today, he said.

Igor Snegur declined to comment, saying he wished to keep the matter private.

The death is the sixth student death in Snegur's school district this year, according to The Oregonian newspaper. Since July, a third grader drowned in the surf, a high school junior died in a motorcycle crash, a high school graduate was shot in his car while driving, another high school student fell of a cliff, and a 13-year-old died from gunshot wounds in a gang incident.

Snegur's school, Mill Park Elementary, had a team of counselors on hand this week to talk with students about Vinessa's death, according to the report.