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Toddler dies at Cushman

17-year-old dove into Cushman to save child

A 2-year-old child died after being submerged in a car that plunged down an embankment into Lake Cushman on Monday.

“This is still under investigation and the cause is still under investigation,” MCSO Chief Criminal Deputy of Patrol Operations Ryan Spurling told the Journal. “It’s terrible. Every year, it seems like we lose one or two people up there from jumping off the rock or drownings.”

According to the Mason County Sheriff’s Office Declaration of Probable Cause, Christopher J. Valeta, 30, was arrested on suspicion of vehicular homicide.

Valeta was driving south on state Route 119 in a Jeep without doors or a top. He allegedly told authorities his car had a straight axle, and that he knew his car naturally swerved, so much so that he thought drivers following him on the road would believe he was drunk, according to the declaration.

Valeta allegedly told authorities he took his eyes off the road to check his mirror because he was worried about kayaks falling off his vehicle. After looking in the mirror, according to the report, he felt his right wheel was off the road, and that’s when the car went off road, down a tree-filled embankment and into the lake.

A 17-year-old was driving by after the car went into the water and the two adults were out of the vehicle, waving down the teenager and saying the child was trapped inside the vehicle. The 17-year-old dove into the water, where Valeta was already trying to get the child out of the car. The teenager was able to locate the child, unbuckle the child from the car seat and get the child out of the water, according to the declaration.

Valeta provided a voluntary breath sample and blew a 0.015, according to the declaration. The legal limit in Washington is 0.08.

According to the Mason County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page, the office received a call around 7 p.m. of a single-car collision at milepost 13 on state Route 119, an area commonly known as “party rock.”

Spurling said Tuesday MCSO was working to recover the car. MCSO had the special operations and volunteer dive teams working with a large tow truck to help retrieve the car.

Life-saving measures were being performed as law enforcement and medical personnel arrived on scene. Medical personnel continued to perform life-saving measures before the child was airlifted to Mary Bridge Hospital in Tacoma.

Valeta was released from custody following his preliminary appearance in Mason Superior Court on Tuesday.

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Matt Baide, Reporter

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Shelton-Mason County Journal & Belfair Herald
Email: [email protected]


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