Reported Drowning in Willow Creek would be Eighth of 2015


The grim toll of this year's drowning deaths may rise, according to the Humboldt County Coroner's office, which announced in a press release that a 33-year-old Oregon man, Justin Russell Lawrence Bennich, was pulled from the water at Willow Creek's Kimtu swimming hole after becoming unresponsive on July 4.

Chief Deputy Coroner Ernie Stewart said his office could not confirm Bennich's death was due to drowning, and that another medical problem may be responsible. Criminal activity is not suspected. More information should be available in a few weeks, after lab analysis.

If Bennich's cause of death is confirmed as a drowning, it would be the eighth such incident in 2015,

From the County Sheriff's Office:

July 7, 2015

On July 4, 2015 at about 3:40 PM the Hoopa Ambulance responded to the Kimtu area for a reported drowning. Upon arrival they were informed that a subject had become unresponsive in the water and had been brought to shore by witnesses at the location.

Resuscitation efforts were immediately started and the subject was transported to Mad River Community Hospital. Prior to arriving at the hospital, the subject was declared deceased.

Due to conflicting witness statements, an autopsy was scheduled for July 7, 2015 to confirm the exact cause of death. The autopsy was completed but the results were inconclusive. Tissue and blood samples were taken for further analysis. It will be several weeks before the results of the additional analysis are known.

The deceased person has been positively identified as Justin Russell Lawrence Bennich, age 33, from Gladstone, Oregon.

Though the exact cause of death is pending, the Coroner's Office does not suspect any criminal activity relating to this incident.

Ernie Stewart
Chief Deputy Coroner

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