Mother drowns attempting to save son in Pine Creek

WATERVILLE — Hours after she was rescued from Pine Creek, Ada Lorissa Reiff, a 35-year-old mother who was trying desperately to save her 7-year-old son from drowning in the creek, died Tuesday night at Geisinger Medical Center, Danville, according to investigators.

Reiff, of Annville in Lebanon County, died in the intensive care unit at 8:39 p.m., Montour County Coroner Scott Lynn said. He ruled her death an accidental drowning.

“I really tried, really tried (to save her),” 20-year-old Kiana Smith said as she fought back tears during a telephone interview on Wednesday afternoon.

Smith said she swam across the creek and helped pull Reiff to the west shoreline. She was helped by two members of Reiff’s family and a young woman who was relaxing in the water in an inflated inner tube.

Reiff was pulled out of the creek about 2:45 p.m. An hour later, volunteer firefighters recovered the lifeless body of her son, Adam, who was rushed to the Geisinger Jersey Shore Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 4:46 p.m., Lycoming County Coroner Charles E. Kiessling Jr.

This tragedy may be the first double drowning in the creek’s history, according to investigators.

“The victims and additional members of their (Mennonite) family were wading in an area of a boat launch near Ramsey Drive. One of the children (Adam), waded into water where it was too deep to stand,” state Trooper Matthew Miller said.

Investigators said a family of four adults and 11 children, believed to all be from the Lebanon County region, was vacationing together at the boat launch. None of them knew how to swim, investigators said.

“He (the boy) began to panic and appeared to be drowning. Several family members attempted to save him, but were unsuccessful,” Miller said.

The area is just north of the Watson-Cummings Township line, about 200 yards south of a railroad bridge.

“When the mother went into the water in an attempt to save him a second time, she began to drown as well,” Miller added.

Kiessling said it was believed that the boy “was caught by the water current when his mother and other family members attempted to locate him under water.”

“The boy went under water and never resurfaced,” he said.

There are many sudden changes in the creek’s depth, investigators said.

Smith, who lives in Pleasant Gap, said she and her boyfriend were traveling north on Route 44 when a Mennonite woman suddenly darted out into the road waving her arms and screaming “Help, they’re drowning, they’re drowning.”

“I ran down to the shoreline. I could see a white cap floating in the water (quite a ways out). I knew I had to do something,” Smith said. She ran back to her car, called 911 and drove a short distance to where she thought she might have a better chance of reaching the woman. She said she never saw the boy.

Smith got out of her car, climbed down a steep rocky embankment and went into the creek to get Reiff. Once Reiff was on shore, Smith immediately began performing CPR and continued until emergency responders reached her and took over.