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Jul-08-2014 11:35printcomments

Salem Teen Drowns at Three Pools Just Days After His Birthday

An impromptu memorial was held Tuesday at Houck Middle School at 1:30 p.m.

Sean Kaleopa
Sean Kaleopa of Salem, who just celebrated his birthday on July 4, died tragically on Monday while swimming at the three pools east of Salem. Photo's: Special to Salem-News.com

(SALEM, Ore. ) - As Salem-News.com was first to report just after 3:00 p.m. on Monday, emergency responders and the Marion County Sheriff's office responded to a fatal drowning at the three pools day use area on the North Fork of the Santiam River which is located 17 miles up from Ore. Highway 22, and 45 miles east of Salem.

The Marion County Sheriff's office has positively identified the boy who tragically drowned as 14-year-old Sean Kaleopa of Salem, who had just celebrated his birthday on July 4.

According to Marion County Sheriff's office spokesman Sergeant Chris Baldridge, family members noticed Sean was missing and when they began looking for him they found him submerged and at the bottom of a pool of water. A heroic effort to save Sean was put into action by family members and park goers.

Sean was pulled from the pool and a human chain was formed to extricate him from the river's edge. CPR was performed on Sean by citizens and responding fire personnel, however Sean could not be resuscitated.

According to other witness accounts into Salem-News.com, while people were trying to save Sean's life, others had to race down the road in cars and some by foot to get a cell phone signal to call for help.

He attended Houck Middle School in southeast Salem where he had just completed his seventh grade year.

Authorities who regularly work in the three pools area say some 15,000 people come to the pools every year making it one of the more popular summertime swimming spots in Marion County for those looking to beat the heat. But it is also a very dangerous place.

The water on the North Fork of the Santiam River is all fresh snow melt which is still very cold even with the warmer temperatures, moves very fast in some areas, and has strong undercurrents in places which can catch the most experienced swimmers off guard.

There are tempting yet very dangerous falls and a bridge to jump from, but even though it might look deep enough, you can't see the hiding dangers under the water, and that's when people get seriously injured or unfortunately die.

The Marion County Sheriff's office would like to remind those cooling off and having fun up at the three pools that it is illegal to jump from the bridge.

Sean was described by his family as the, "Big brother to all." An impromptu memorial has been scheduled at Houck Middle School at 1:30 p.m.

Friends and family posted on Kaleopa's Facebook page that he was one of the most talented, kind-hearted, and sweetest people they had ever met. At 6'1 and 235 pounds, Kaleopa played football, and other sports, and was also a very talented singer in the choir.

Another boy was airlifted out of the three pools area on July 4. Witnesses said a REACH helicopter out of Corvallis took the boy, who had apparently hit his head on some rocks while diving at one of the falls at three pools. People were able to pull him out quickly, and the boy was conscious and breathing on his own when rescue crews arrived. He was then air lifted to Corvallis hospital. No other information on this incident is available.


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Anonymous July 9, 2014 3:59 pm (Pacific time)

I never really knew you off the court, but on the court you were a great player, not just a great player but you had a great attitude. You never gave up no matter what and you had the best sportsmanship. Even though we weren't classmates or teammates I will always remember you

Adam Houck Middle School July 9, 2014 8:42 am (Pacific time)

There is now a video tribute to Sean on here. Look for it at the top of the page and pass along to his family and other friends. It is a really great piece of work. Thanks Salem-News.com for your efforts in going this for all of us who knew Sean.

Mark SE Salem July 8, 2014 4:24 pm (Pacific time)

This is why I have changed from the Salem paper to this website. After reading this story, which the reporter does an excellent job of, the paper, has the information from this story in their story now. Great job again, and great job again SJ in LAZY reporting.

Castaneda Family July 8, 2014 2:17 pm (Pacific time)

You were on my son's football team the "Jets",you always had a smile on your face and a true love for football! My heart goes out to family and friends of this truly awesome kid!

Castaneda Family July 8, 2014 2:17 pm (Pacific time)

You were on my son's football team the "Jets",you always had a smile on your face and a true love for football! My heart goes out to family and friends of this truly awesome kid!

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