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Woman, Two Young Children Drown in Swollen River

December 2, 1996

ELKTON, Ore. (AP) _ Craig Appler managed to escape his car after a tractor-trailer slammed into it on a muddy riverside highway. When he tried to swim back to save his wife and two young children, the car was gone.

Searchers Sunday found the bodies of Georgina Marie Appler, 24, 2-year-old Daisha Ann and Austin Wayne, who was to celebrate his first birthday today.

They were found inside the Toyota Camry, about 40 feet from shore in the rain-swollen Umpqua River _ in 15 feet of water. A pair of blue baby pajamas was hanging in a nearby tree limb.

Mrs. Appler, 24, was still wearing her seat belt in the passenger seat, while the two children were strapped into child safety seats in the back when the car was pulled down by the racing waters.

Appler, 21, couldn’t get to his family in time, police said.

``The car sank and the current carried him downstream,″ state police Sgt. Tom Welch said. ``He could not have found them. It’s very murky, very high water, trees sticking out of the water. It’s very dangerous.″ .

Appler was driving his family home Saturday night to North Bend, about 50 miles southwest of Elkton in western Oregon, when he came upon the mudslide near Paradise Creek.

He stopped the car near a curve, and as he tried to back up, an oncoming truck crashed through the debris and into the car, police said.

The car went over a 70-foot embankment and struck the rocks below before sinking into the river.

No charges were filed against the truck driver, Joseph Sturt, 25, of Laguna Beach, Calif. He suffered cuts and bruises.

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