Family’s two deaths prompt drowning awareness efforts

drowning awareness
Donald LaRue with grandson, Aiden

Brittany Bulkley wants to honor her late father’s attempt to rescue her son from drowning to encourage children’s safety near water and promote drowning awareness.

 Ronald LaRue, 54, of Mayfield, Ky., was a posthumous recipient of the Carnegie Medal in September 2015 for trying to save his grandson, Aiden Bulkley, 5, from drowning after the boy fell from a municipal dock into the Penobscot River in Bucksport, Maine, while fishing on Aug. 8, 2014.  Jumping into the river after Aiden, LaRue reached the boy and tried to swim with him against a strong current.  They soon separated and drowned.

In the aftermath of their deaths, Bulkley, of Cedar Hill, Mo., created a drowning-awareness page on Facebook to share news stories about other incidents of drownings or near drownings.  The page also serves as a resource for safety tips and a tribute to her father and son.

“I would love for people to know the story and how to further protect their loved ones,” Bulkley wrote to the Commission after her father was named among the latest awardees.  “We will be starting a non-profit organization in their honor in the next couple years.  We have been doing lots of research and will start fundraising next year.”

LaRue’s final act also resonated in the Bucksport community even though he didn’t live there.  In April 2015, the American Red Cross, Greater Bangor Region, recognized LaRue posthumously with the “Disaster Hero Award” for trying to save Aiden.  The local chapter also honored three first responders who went into the river to try to rescue Aiden and LaRue shortly after witnesses reported the incident to 911.

There also have been improvements made to the dock, which, at the time of the accident, did not have any flotation devices available because of repeated thefts.  The municipality has worked with a group organized by Aiden’s father, Chad Bulkley, who lived in Bangor, Maine, to install life jackets there.

Despite the family’s pain, Bulkley said she was “very overwhelmingly proud” of her father’s Carnegie Medal, which was awarded to his widow, Lillian. “I can’t tell you how much this means to me, personally, even that he was nominated.”

Bulkley’s page can be found at—Chris Foreman, Case Investigator

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