Grief takes hold at Deeps in Duluth's Lester ParkAs the search continued for the 13-year-old who was pulled under water in Amity Creek, those gathered at the site mourned the boy they knew as an avid swimmer and sports fan.
By: Jana Hollingsworth, Duluth News Tribune
Jeff Bowen and his son, Jefferson, spent countless summer days in Lester Park and its rivers — even pulling out a man who was injured after jumping in the Lester River last summer.
The senior Bowen is an experienced diver who has spent time teaching his 13-year-old son how to swim and properly jump into safe swimming areas. But not the Amity Creek Deeps. That is a place Bowen has instructed his son to refrain from jumping and swimming, even Tuesday when the last thing he asked his son was for a promise not to go there, especially after the heavy rain.
“He’s a 13-year-old boy,” Bowen said. “They were being boys.”
Jefferson was still missing as of Wednesday evening after entering from a low area into the roiling waters of Amity Creek in the section known as “the Deeps.” He was reportedly taken by the current in the rain-swollen stream.
Rescue workers were using a remotely operated underwater vehicle with a camera Wednesday in their search. The search, which included sweeps of the banks with dogs, was concentrated mainly in the Deeps area, where authorities believe Jefferson may have been caught in an eddy that pulled him under. Family and friends Wednesday talked about the boy who always wore a blue and white knit beanie cap, even in his sleep; who loved skateboarding and Lake Superior and could cite sports trivia like a pro. He had been to a Twins game last month after the family had an opportunity to watch from Joe Mauer’s private luxury box through an organization Bowen belongs to.
“He made a ‘circle me, Bert’ sign,” Bowen said of the fan tradition of getting the attention of Twins television analyst Bert Blyleven. “He was so excited.”
Jefferson, who his father said struggled with entering teen-hood in the past year, was to attend Woodland Middle School as an eighth-grader next month. The single father said his family was a team that made decisions together, and his son did his part to run the household.
“I was so proud of him,” Bowen said. “Yesterday he was playing his Xbox after he did his chores. We sat down and talked and I told him how proud I was that he was straightening out. There were a lot of possibilities for him.”
Hermantown eighth-grader Emily Reno spent time with Jefferson in class at Hermantown last year and walking home with him from school with other friends.
“He was a good listener as a friend if you wanted to talk to someone,” she said. “School is going to be really hard.”
Hermantown eighth-grader Keeley Ogston said Jefferson was outgoing and funny. She said she spoke to him Tuesday before he went to the Deeps.
“We told him not to come here … that he should hang out with us because it would be more fun,” Ogston said. “We didn’t think anything was going to happen.”
Bowen, who does not wish the Deeps fenced in or closed off, said kids need to be more educated about the dangers of water, and signs along the rivers would go a long way in cautioning youth about changing water conditions. Schools and parents need to do their part, he said.
“Use common sense and don’t give in to peer pressure,” he said, noting he was told his son was encouraged by another boy to jump into the swollen river. Jefferson’s life is over, he said, and his siblings will grow up without him.
Jefferson was a strong kid who skateboarded from Arrowhead Road to the Lester River area often and lifted weights. That wasn’t enough to escape the currents. His best friend went in after him to try and save him, Bowen said, but the water conditions weren’t fit for professional divers.
In the water, his friend “felt his body go past him,” Bowen said. “He tried to save him, but they are kids. He couldn’t do anything. It breaks my heart.”
Bowen, who was grateful for the hard work and support of rescue workers and local authorities, hopes other kids will learn from the loss.
“He has 600 friends on Facebook. I didn’t realize my son had touched so many people,” Bowen said. “He had a brother who died 14 years ago. I got to believe they’re up there playing basketball.”
Search continues today
With the water level in Amity Creek down three to four feet from where it was when Bowen disappeared, those searching for him will begin walking in the creek from Superior Street up to the Deeps area this morning, according to Capt. Tom Crossmon of the St. Louis County Search and Rescue Squad.
If that yields no results, the Superior/Douglas County Dive Team will begin diving in the area at 1 p.m.
“We have high hopes,” Crossmon said.