FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. — Demetrius Jones will be turning three on Wednesday without any idea how lucky he is to be alive after being swept up by a current in the Peace River, from where he was rescued clinging to his motorized truck.
The toddler had travelled about 12 kilometres down the river on his own after leaving his grandmother’s holiday trailer two hours earlier.
Anita Neudorf said the boy was staying with her at Peace Island Park in Taylor, B.C., while his parents were in a nearby tent.
Neudorf said she didn’t hear a sound when Jones left the trailer by himself at about 7:30 a.m., on Sunday.
Other campers told her they’d heard the boy in his battery-operated truck at that time, she said.
“He had told his parents that he had made his truck into a boat and rode down the river,” Neudorf said.
Several campers and friends of the family came out in full force to search for the little boy, and everyone expected the worst, she said.
“We wouldn’t go near the river because I said to my son, if he’s in the river, he’s gone and all I could think of was, ‘I’m going to be burying my grandson.”’
Neudorf said Jones’ parents are still in shock as they relive their son’s close call on the river.
RCMP were called half an hour after Neudorf said they’d searched the park grounds and realized he probably headed into the river.
Fort St. John resident Don Loewen was one of the campers looking for the boy.
He got into a boat with four other people to help search for Jones and found him just before 10 a.m., calling his safe rescue an “act of God.”
“He wasn’t crying or whimpering or anything,” Loewen said. “He was cold but he was in the kneeling position on top of his upside down car in a couple of inches of water.”
“He was in 15 feet of water but the car itself was kind of semi-submerged, so his legs were under water and his hands, but his torso and his head and stuff were above water.”
Jones was taken to hospital by the RCMP officers, who he calls “wheels wheels” and was excited to tell his parents about his adventures with them.
Neudorf said he was in the hospital for about an hour and was treated for the first stages of hypothermia but other than some sore muscles, he was unfazed by what had happened.
“He’s sore, he was walking a little funny and I asked him if his legs hurt. He said ‘Yes.”’
She said that besides being a little clingy, Jones still wants to go back on the river on his “boat.”
His family planned a birthday party for him at the park on Sunday after his safe return.
Park manager Sandra Rundle bought ice cream for the kids and her brother donated some food as well.
“We put together a little extra stuff so we could have the campers that were still here and helped all join the birthday party,” Rundle said. “We basically had a celebration of life rather than just a birthday.”
Fort St. John RCMP Const. Jackelynn Passarell said such a situation could have happened to any family.
“Three-year-olds are quite active and they can get out of your view very quickly and especially when there’s lots of other family around you presume that maybe they’re with other family members,” she said.
But Passarell said Jones’ story may help parents be more vigilant when their kids are around water.