Bethel, NY Drowning, May 1870

Child Drowned at Bethel.

DARING ATTEMPT AT RESCUE AND WONDERFUL ESCAPE.

In Bethel, in this state, on Wednesday last, EDDIE NEWTON, aged five years, son of Mr. Levi Newton, los this life in the following manner: He was playing with several other children just above the highway bridge, on the side of the branch opposite the village, when by some accident he fell into the water. Fifty feet below the bridge the water flows over a high dam among the rocks and surges below, tumbles along another hundred feet, leaps a second dam higher that the first, and sweeps down under the railroad bridge for two hundred yards a perfect cataract. When the cry “Eddie Newton is drowning” came up from the boys on the bank, Edward Burnett a young man of eighteen, was sitting on the stone steps at the opposite end of the bridge. He immediately hurried across, and though the child was already within fifty feet of the dam, stripped off his coat and plunged boldly into the river. The child was twelve or fifteen feet from shore. The rescuer swam out, clasped him, raised him from beneath the water, and was turning towards the bank when both were flung headforemost over the dam into the hissing vortex below. – Quite a crowd had gathered by this time, and every eye was strained to pierce the foam; but not a sign of the victims could be seen for perhaps a minute and a half, when young Burnett was seen drawing himself out of the water by some bushes fifty rods below. He was severely bruised, and has been confined to his bed since the adventure, but no bones were broken, and he is rapidly recovering.
Too much credit can not be given to the bold youth who gave such fearful odds to death for the chance of saving the little boy. The universal opinion is that not one in a hundred could pass down that jagged torrent bed and come out alive. His own account of the adventure will be of interest. He says: “When I turned back I did not think I was so near the dam till I felt myself going over it, was holding the child out of the water before me, and my impression is that he struck the rock and I fell upon him. I lost hold of him at the first fall. Here my foot caught in a snag, and I thought I must be caught there to drown, but managed to struggle away from it. I saw no light between the dams, but held my breath and went spinning along over the lower dam. I was conscious every instant, and now began to feel that I must draw in my breath, though I knew it was death to do so. But just at that instant, by strange good fortune, I was thrown to the top of the water and got a glorious breath of air, before I was again swept under. It came just in time to save me, and was the only breath I got during the whole time I was going down. When I was almost exhausted, I clutched something in the water; it was a bush, and drew me to the top. But I was so weak and the current so strong that I could not hold it, but the next instant I caught another, and exerting all my strength drew myself on shore.”

Jamestown Journal, Jamestown, NY 6 May 1870