MARSHALLTOWN, IA. — Three children drowned Wednesday night in the Iowa River at Marshalltown, police said.
The children — two girls, ages 9 and 7, and a 7-year-old boy — were not identified, but they were related, Marshalltown Police Chief Mike Tupper said. They were swimming together in a wooded stretch of the river near Riverview Park north of town when they disappeared, Tupper said.
Police were called about 6:15 p.m. The recovery operation wrapped up about 8:45 p.m., Tupper said.
Marshalltown native Mike Williams, who came to observe the search operation, said the area where the drownings occurred is a common spot for fishing and boating.
Tupper said that although he understands wanting to go swimming to cool down during the heat, people should not swim in the Iowa River.
“The message that we are trying to get out to people is that the river is not a safe place to be, it’s not a safe place to swim,” he said. “The river looks relatively calm down on the location where this occurred, and in many areas down there, it’s very shallow. But there are also areas that can drop off to 12 or 14 feet, and the undercurrent can be very dangerous in any river.”
Tupper said the search was difficult because boats could not be used. Shallow waters and steep banks kept authorities from putting boats in at useful locations. Most of the searching was from the banks.
A hospital helicopter performed an aerial search of the area, Tupper said.
Tupper said the circumstances of the drownings were being investigated.
This was the second time in less than three weeks that the Iowa River had claimed a child’s life in Marshalltown. A 10-year-old Marshalltown boy drowned June 18, officials said. Andres Favela had jumped into the river at the Center Street dam, which is less than a mile upstream from where Wednesday’s drownings occurred.
Rescue crews had searched for several minors that evening. Favela’s body was recovered the next day.
Marshalltown is 54 miles northeast of Des Moines.
On Wednesday, about 30 people took part in the search-and-rescue effort, Tupper said, including Marshalltown fire and police departments, Marshall County Emergency Management, Marshall County Search and Rescue, the State Center Police Department, the Grundy County Sheriff’s Department and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.
Iowa waters have been deadly to swimmers and boaters this year. In just two days in mid-June, in addition to Favela’s death, a teenager drowned at a West Des Moines park and an Ames police sergeant drowned while trying to reach his daughter in a wayward boat.
The state is on pace for its deadliest summer boating season in recent years, with seven boating-related fatalities so far.