Family Fights For River Safety Two Years After Son, 2 Others Died in Provo River
PROVO CANYON, Utah — As the weather warms and snowmelt run off intensifies in Utah, many people will head to rivers and creeks to take in the spectacle.
When you do, a Utah couple wants you to take a moment to think of their son, and focus on swift-water safety.
Troy and Pauline Thayne don’t want anyone else to feel the pain they have known the last two years.
“The water was so loud that you could hardly hear yourself talk,” said Troy Thayne.
He’s standing at the bottom of Bridal Veil Falls, describing the raging current on the Provo River two years ago. Today, the channel is relatively calm, a normal flow.
Memorial Day weekend 2017, Troy and Pauline Thayne were soaking in the raw, thunderous beauty with their adult son, Sean, his wife, and her parents. Suddenly, Troy and his son saw four-year-old London DeDios and her mother, Brenda, go in the water.
“I took off running, and my son followed me running,” said Troy.
Troy was looking for a branch, or rope to throw in for a potential rescue. He knew not to go in. He’s a former EMT.
Sadly, his son did not know.
“But he wasn’t trained that way, and I wish everybody would know not to run into the water,” he said.
Sean jumped in to save strangers. So did several others. They got out safely. Sean, Brenda, and London disappeared in the current. Their bodies were discovered down river.
“The hardest thing is seeing his body thrashing through the water in the three-mile track that he went down,” said Troy.
Trying to make peace out of the horror of that day, he started a website saferrivers.org.
“Their story has to be told so that it doesn’t happen again,” he said.
The state put in a pile of large boulders on the backs where the child slipped into the river to keep people away from the current. Troy Thayne still thinks more can be done.
“I really would like them to put a volunteer, or a Ranger, or somebody up here during peak hours, so that it’s not just the wild west,” he said, referring to the unregulated nature of the area near the river, especially when large crowds are near the river.
That spring and early summer, six people died in swift-water drowning statewide, as near-record run-off raged in our waterways. So, Troy is shooting a safety message for his website.
“I can’t imagine what he’s been through,” said former KSL-TV5 News Anchor Dick Nourse, who is helping with that project. “People just don’t get the message until something terrible happens to them.”
He spent his 43-year career at KSL sharing stories like this.
“The water is just too powerful. Even a good swimmer can get in trouble,” he said. “I hope I still have a little influence in the state to where I could encourage people and they will listen.”
Troy raised money for a unique lithopane memorial plaque that will soon memorialize the three who died that day. It will be installed along the river, not far from where his son jumped in the water.
“I think that a regular warning sign does no good,” said Troy. “But, if you add a face and a story to it…”
With the human reminder, the Thaynes believe, people will notice and think twice about their own safety.