NORTH OGDEN — MariJo Croston says her 13-year-old son, Draydon, saved her life after she fell off a float tube and went crashing through a rough, rocky stretch of the Weber River.
The family was preparing to get out of the river at Taggart in Morgan County on July 25 when MariJo ran into trouble.
“I had fallen out of my tube and was hanging from it,” she said several days later, recalling the traumatic experience.
That began a wild trip past the float tube landing spot through several hundred yards of turbulent water.
She said she might have drowned had Draydon not noticed her predicament and rushed to help.
Draydon was beginning to get out of the river, she said, “but he just let go and came to where I was. He saw that I was struggling.”
Her husband, Ryon, saw what was happening too but was not close enough to intervene. He kept his tube going and followed the other two down the river, terrified by the danger he saw unfolding.
“I was at the mercy of the river and I didn’t want to get out if my wife wasn’t getting out,” Ryon said.
Ryon went shooting past them as the chaotic stream flow buffeted the three.
“My son just grabbed my tube handle and held on the whole time with his left hand all the way down,” MariJo said.
She was screaming and crying as her body slammed into rocks. Ryon shouted at them as well, urging Draydon to keep hanging on.
MariJo said she was having a hard time keeping her head up out of the water.
“If I let go I was afraid I would just go down,” she said.
Ahead of them, Ryon shot over a spot in the river with a six-foot drop and turned to MariJo and Draydon, screaming, “Go left, go left.”
“I was yelling at the top of my lungs, but there was nothing I could do,” Ryon said. “It was absolutely the worst feeling I have ever felt in my entire life.”
He remembers feeling “helpless and hopeless,” listening to MariJo yelling every time she hit a rock.
MariJo and Draydon fortunately made it through the drop and the family was able to get out of the river in calmer water a short distance farther.
Ryon said he ran to MariJo, who had suffered a broken rib, bruises and cuts.
“I think I was mostly in shock,” MariJo said.
Ryon said he profusely thanked Draydon “five or six times.”
“I said thanks for saving his mom, for saving my wife,” Ryon said. “A million thoughts went through my head.”
MariJo and Ryon thought the worst may had happened if Draydon had not acted.
“It was really cool he took that initiative,” Ryon said.
MariJo said Draydon seems to be handling it well and at least for now does not appear to be traumatized.
“My husband and I have been having nightmares, so I can imagine how he feels,” she said.
“He’s so humble,” she added. “He just says he did what he had to do.”
That fits his personality, she said.
“He doesn’t need attention, he doesn’t need praise,” she said.
“My mom fell, so I kept going,” Draydon said. “I didn’t want her out there by herself.”
He said he used his foot to brace against a rock and “stretched as far as I could and grabbed Mom’s tube.”
Draydon recalled that “it was kind of scary at the time. She was screaming and I could see all the people around and how their faces looked.”
“I feel pretty proud of myself for what I did,” he said. “It was a weird experience.”
Chris Haramoto, manager of East Canyon State Park, said the float route of several miles from below Henefer in Summit County to Taggart is one of the most popular tubing spots in Utah.
“Hundreds of people every day,” said Haramoto, who is responsible for patrolling that stretch of river.
He said a man drowned in May when his raft capsized in the river near Henefer.
“It’s a river and it can be inherently dangerous, especially if you don’t have the proper equipment,” Haramoto said.
Life jackets, properly buckled or zipped, and tubes adequate for the river, are necessary, he said.
“Some people bring pool toys and they pop half a mile down,” he said.
“We have been very, very fortunate on the Weber River this year, with the number of people floating, that we haven’t had more drownings,” Haramoto said.
Marijo Croston said the family is experienced in water sports and had life jackets and good tubes.
She’s a Canadian and moved to Utah in part because of the warmer weather and the greater access to rivers and lakes.
They’ll float again, “but I’m pretty sure it will be a while,” she said.
The family has a boat and they were on Willard Bay a few days after the close call, she said.