The Nez Perce Tribe is mourning the loss of Elmer Crow, Jr., 69, who drowned while saving his 7-year-old grandson the evening of July 26.
"I am still in such shock and grief, but am so proud of my father's final act of heroism that I just have to share it with the world," wrote son Jeremy Crow on the Elmer Crow Memorial Facebook page. "….His final act of lifting my nephew above the water for those last few moments was what saved his grandson's life but cost him his own."
On the fateful night, two cousins, Crow's grandsons, were swimming in the Buffalo Eddy of the Snake River—an eddy or reverse current, created when the water flows past the river's sharp bends. Buffalo Eddy in the Nez Perce National Historic Park is notable for the densely grouped clusters of petroglyphs and pictographs on the stone sides.
According to witnesses, the children were playing in the popular swimming area when they were sucked underwater by the wake of a jet boat. That's when Crow jumped in, the Lewiston Tribune reports. The older child managed to swim to shore, and Crow rescued the younger one.
"My dad, submerged by this time, managed to get his grandson's feet on his shoulders and stabilize him by reaching up to hold his waist," wrote Jeremy Crow on the Facebook memorial page. "Just as his grandson started dipping below the surface, a boat reached them and pulled him in, but by that time, my dad had already perished in the river."
The rescue team reportedly returned to retrieve Crow but "efforts to revive him were unsuccessful," the Tribune reports.
A memorial service followed by a Nez Perce drum ceremony is scheduled for Thursday, August 1 at 5 p.m. PDT in Lapwai, Idaho. The funeral service will start on August 2 at 9 a.m. at the Pi-Nee-Waus in Lapwai, followed by burial at the Jonah Hayes Cemetery in Sweetwater.