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Friday, June 12, 2020

Tragedy at Henry Hagg Lake: An Unusual Multiple Drowning Case

     On Monday August 25, 2014, 42-year-old Jova Ixtacua, her daughter Gabriela, 25, Jova's son Michael, 15, and Gabriela's 3-year-old son Jeremy Scholl, had gathered at Henry Hagg Lake for a picnic and some swimming. The reservoir was a popular recreational park 25 miles west of Portland, Oregon. The family had traveled to the lake from their home in nearby Hillsboro.

     At six-thirty that Monday evening, a passerby came upon the body of an unconscious or dead child lying on the beach at the water's edge. Emergency personnel tried in vain to revive 3-year-old Jeremy Scholl. The boy was not wearing a lifejacket. On the beach not far from his body lay a towel, a cooler, a purse, four pairs of shoes, and a small dog secured on a leash. Members of the boy's family, people associated with the items on the beach, were nowhere to be found.

     An hour after the discovery of Jeremy Scholl's body, police officers and others began searching the two square miles of Henry Hagg Lake. The next day, at ten-thirty at night, searchers found three bodies floating in eight feet of water 40 feet from the shore about 50 yards from where the 3-year-old's body had washed up. The two women and the teenage boy were identified as Jeremy's grandmother, mother, and uncle.

     Sergeant Bob Ray of the Washington County Sheriff's Office told reporters that, "We are considering the deaths a tragic accident." Investigators believed the 3-year-old had fallen over a steep drop-off into the lake near the spot where the four sets of shoes and other items had been found. According to this theory, the boy's mother, grandmother and uncle had jumped into the water to save him and drowned themselves.

     Following the autopsies, the Oregon State Medical Examiner reported that the four family members had died from asphyxia by drowning. The medical examiner ruled the manner of deaths accidental. That closed the door on any homicide investigation.

     Because of the steep drop-off into the channel of a former river that flowed beneath the reservoir, Henry Hagg Lake, a recreational swimming venue that doesn't employ lifeguards, had been the site of several drownings and near drownings.

     Outside of boating tragedies, multiple accidental drownings are extremely rare. 


  1. Reminds me of when I was on a hiking trip in France a few years back. I sat down to eat by a water hole and noticed an old tombstone for 4 young children who had drowned there in the 1880s. Tragic.

  2. Look at how many other people have died in that lake lately and tell me it's a coincidence. I live nearby and the news reports out of that lake... I would never step foot in that water and I like water.