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Aug-07-2014 12:12printcomments

Salem Mourns the Deaths of 3 Teens in Less than a Month

Back on July 7, just three days after his birthday, 14-year-old Sean Kaleopa drowned while swimming at the Three Pools Recreation area.

Mill Creek Salem Oregon
On Sunday, 16-year-old North Salem High School student Matthew Tufts drowned after jumping into Mill Creek near the Lakeside Community Mobile Home Park around 9:00 p.m. File Photo

(SALEM, Ore. ) - Salem family, friends, and the community as a whole, have had to endure the tragic deaths of three teenagers from Salem in less than a month, and two, just days apart.

On Sunday, 16-year-old North Salem High School student Matthew Tufts drowned after jumping into Mill Creek near the Lakeside Community Mobile Home Park around 9:00 p.m. The day before, 19-year-old Marina Toran of Salem was a passenger in a vehicle that fell down a 100 foot embankment and ended up in the Molalla River.

Back on July 7, just three days after his birthday, 14-year-old Sean Kaleopa, who had attended Houck Middle School, drowned while swimming at the Three Pools Recreation area near Lyons, Oregon.

Salem, Marion County and other state and county agencies want to make sure that parents, friends, and family members know that there are support groups and numbers people can call to get help if they are struggling with all or any of these deaths. They also want you to be aware of certain signs that could tell you that someone associated or close to any of the people who have died, are having a hard time dealing with it, and should seek professional help.

Todd W. Pynch with Marion County Sheriff's Office Crisis Chaplaincy Services says he would encourage parents, and friends to be looking for the following changes: Sudden or drastic changes in behavior; Withdrawal from family members and friends; Depression; Complete failure to communicate.

Pynch added that probably the biggest recommendation I would make to parents is to talk with their kids. Ask them questions. You don't want to ask how they are doing, because we all lie about that and say we are fine when in reality we are not. Ask them how they feel about, and ask them what they think about.

If a parent or someone else is concerned whether or not a person is considering harming themselves, then you have to ask them.

There are three direct questions to ask Pynch says:

1. Are you thinking about harming yourself or taking your own life?

2. If you are thinking about this, do you know how you would do it?

3. Do you know when and/or where you are thinking about doing this?

If a person answers yes to question #1, I am concerned but I don't panic.

If they answer yes to #2, my concern is growing quickly, and I will probably try to get help.

If they answer all three questions, I'm getting immediate help either by calling 9-1-1 or calling a suicide hotline, Phnch said. They could also call a school counselor, a licensed counselor, reach out to a pastor or even call a chaplain. The key is to do something.

Pynch added that one of the biggest tragedies of suicide is when people know of someone that is considering this but they don't let anyone else know.

Here are some Salem area crisis and information hotline numbers: Northwest Human Services, Inc.




Marion County Health Department


Marion County Suicide Prevention Program Youth Crisis Line:


National Suicide Prevention Hotline:


Dangers of Swimming in Oregon Waterways Still of Big Concern to Oregon Law Enforcement River Patrols:

Two of the teen deaths were the result of tragic drowning's, and with the weather expected to remain warm and sunny for at least the next month, the Oregon State Marine Board and local police agencies river patrol units from around the state, want to remind you of what to be on the lookout for, and how to keep safe on Oregon waterways.

Marine patrol units from Benton, Linn, Polk, and Marion counties have been on a number of rescues this summer that could have ended in tragedy, but police, fire, and rescue crews were able to get on scene in time to safe those individuals from drowning, mostly youth and young adults floating or swimming in area rivers.

Both the Willamette River through the mid-Willamette Valley, the North Santiam River, Mill Creek, and Little North Fork, have areas of fast moving undercurrents, are filled by snow melt, and have debris that is not visible to the naked eye, even most experienced swimmers.

Officials say just because there was no debris in the waterway you are swimming or floating down last year, does not mean it is not there this year, and that is what catches most people off guard.

That is why the Oregon State Marine Board has been pushing information through the media that no matter how good of a swimmer you maybe, wear a life jacket -- it just might save your life.

Parents are strongly urged to put U.S. Coast Guard approved life jackets on all children when at, or near any Oregon lake, river, pond, creek, and even at the ocean. It only takes a few seconds for anyone to be pulled under and trapped by an unexpected undercurrent or riptide, and a lifejacket is your best defensive to survive.

There are also many small lakes, and ponds throughout Oregon that are popular cool-off spots, and the same message applies to users of those spots as well.

After the drowning death of Matthew Tufts, Salem Police and the Salem Fire Department issued a reminder those who are swimming in area streams, creeks and rivers. Their statement said: As the summer progresses, and water levels change, submerged hazards such as rocks and tree branches can become even more hazardous. Please swim with caution, and use a life jacket.

The Marion County Sheriff's Office also cautioned those who like to jump into area waterways from county bridges, especially up at the Three Pools Recreation Area, that you can be fined up to $1,000 for doing so. Sheriff's spokesman Stg. Chris Baldridge added these tips especially for the Three Pools area: Avoid serious injury by avoiding climbing, jumping or diving from rocks or logs; Know your swimming skill; Always swim with a buddy; Have a flotation device with you, on you, or near you at all times when swimming; Always supervise children. The Willamette National Forest also reminds those swimming or doing other activities that there is no cell service in this area.

Three Pools attracts well over 15,000 visitors each year.

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Sean Flynn was a photojournalist in Vietnam, taken captive in 1970 in Cambodia and never seen again.