Joseph Alongi, 44, restaurant manager, died attempting to help save Robert McDaniel, 34, salesman, and Robert B. Parker, 28, Army sergeant, from drowning, Yelm, Washington, January 5, 1958. When their boat capsized in a boulder-strewn area of rapids in Nisqually River, McDaniel, Parker, and another man were thrown into turbulent water seven feet deep, from where they climbed onto a boulder rising two feet above the surface 100 feet from the bank. McDaniel held Parker, who could not swim, on the boulder, while the other man with difficulty swam to the bank, made his way to a farmhouse a mile away, and summoned help. Volunteer firemen, including Alongi, started to the aid of the stranded men, and a helicopter was dispatched from an air base 28 miles away. From the farmhouse a group of firemen set out on foot to locate McDaniel and Parker. Alongi, who had been delayed while obtaining his 12-foot boat, then arrived at the farm with Robert W. Ellis, a friend who had agreed to help. Alongi, who was experienced at handling small craft but could not swim, and Ellis launched the boat in the river and proceeded to a gravel bar 100 feet upstream from McDaniel and Parker. Meanwhile the water had risen two feet following the opening of the gates of a power dam upstream from the rapids. McDaniel, standing on ledges of the boulder, then was in water nearly hip-deep as he held Parker on the rock to prevent him from being carried away by the current of eight miles an hour. Unable to hear McDaniel’s warning shouts above the roar of the water, Alongi and Ellis proceeded into the rapids in the boat. Out of control, their craft passed McDaniel and Parker and rapidly was carried 250 feet downstream. It then struck a submerged boulder and capsized. Alongi, Ellis, and the boat were submerged and carried 200 feet farther through the rapids into an area where the water was more than 15 feet deep. Both men surfaced near the boat but were unable to maintain a hold on it as it was revolved by the current. Alongi then sank and remained submerged as the other firemen and the helicopter arrived at the scene. Ellis, McDaniel, and Parker were removed from the water by means of a rope ladder lowered from the helicopter. Searchers found Alongi’s body the following day. Ellis was treated for shock, McDaniel suffered from exposure, and Parker was hospitalized overnight. They recovered.
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