Friends of Refugees

A U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program Watchdog Group

Karenni children in Marshalltown drown in Iowa River

Posted by Christopher Coen on July 7, 2012

Another drowning tragedy involving refugee children has occurred, this time in Marshalltown, Iowa. On Wednesday about a dozen Karenni family members went to fish and swim at the Iowa River, where three children later went under the water. Marshalltown Police Chief Michael Tupper said swimming in the river, even in shallow water, is dangerous because of steep drops in the riverbed. An article in the Des Moines Register has the details of what happened:

MARSHALLTOWN, IA. — Overcome with grief, Tay Mo smashed a mirror in her upper-floor apartment Wednesday night and lunged for an open window, a family friend said.

The friend, Khay Da, 28, said he stopped her suicide attempt in the hours after two of her children — Lee Meh, 9, and Se Reh, 7 — had drowned in the Iowa River. She spent the night in the hospital, he said.

The parents of a third child who drowned Wednesday evening, Thay Mo, 7, at least initially did not believe she was dead. On Thursday morning, the couple refused to recite traditional prayers for the dead. They had touched Thay Mo’s arm shortly after her death, Da explained, and her arm’s warmth had given them hope she was still alive.

The Marshalltown community is struggling to support and comfort the two families, refugees from the southeast Asian country of Myanmar, formerly Burma, because [the families speak Karenni]…

Marshalltown Police Chief Michael Tupper said he understands wanting to go swimming to cool down from the heat, but warned people against swimming in the Iowa River…

Though friends said the families have air conditioning in their homes, about a dozen family members had arrived at the river bank to fish and swim on Wednesday. They saw the children go under the water shortly after 6 p.m., police 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.

Rescuers pulled the children’s bodies from the water during a 2½-hour recovery operation that included an aerial search by a hospital helicopter.

Tupper said the search was difficult because shallow waters and steep banks kept authorities from putting in boats nearby. Most of the searching was from the banks.

Swimming in the river, even in shallow water, can be dangerous because of steep drops in the riverbed, Tupper said.

You can be in a section that appears very shallow, and you can walk a few feet and drop down into a deep hole — and that’s the kind of area we were (searching) at,” he said…

Between 500 to 1,000 people from Myanmar live in central Iowa, according to Da and several local school officials. Most started arriving about three years ago to work at the meatpacking plant in Marshalltown, they said… Read more here

One Response to “Karenni children in Marshalltown drown in Iowa River”

  1. purehw said

    3 child dead Iowa so sad

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