By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter
A family and a community is in mourning following the loss of 8-year-old Nicholas Hunter Lee Matchett to drowning in the Chehalis River.
Nicholas was found on a gravel bar a quarter mile downstream from his home near the intersection of state Route 6 and Ceres Hill Road about an hour after his mother reported him missing late Friday afternoon.
He was a student at Boistfort School.
School Principal Rich Apperson said he will be missed as a friend and a member of the school family.
“This was a year he was really flourishing,” Apperson said.
“He was learning to work an iPad and if he had a choice, he might play Angry Birds, or country music,” Apperson said.
Nicholas was one of only about 100 students at the small school in the Boistfort Valley.
Apperson said they tried to keep today as normal as possible for the children, but brought in a counselor and expect to do the same tomorrow, “just in case, as people comes to terms.”
A youth pastor and his wife spoke to each of the classes today, and an informational flyer was sent home with the kids, he said.
The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office has not completed its investigation, but it was reasonable to surmise the child fell into the river, according to sheriff’s Cmdr. Steve Aust.
“The boy had been swinging on the porch and his mom went in the house for a few minutes,” Aust said. “She asked her 11-year-old daughter to go check on him.”
Deputies didn’t find any specific spot where the river bank behind the Matchett’s house caved, but he could have gone straight in without touching the bank, Aust said.
Lewis County Coroner Warren McLeod confirmed this morning the death was an accidental drowning.
Michelle Matchett, his mother, said her son loved everybody.
“He was happy all the time, he was never unhappy,” she said.
He especially liked the movie “Over the hedge”, she said. “He watched it about a million times.”
Nicholas was developmentally delayed, his mother said, describing that as not yet learning to talk.
His school principal said Nicholas had vision and hearing problems, but this year got glasses and a hearing aid and was making good progress.
“We all kind of got to know him,” Apperson said. “He was and yet he wasn’t so much outside the ballpark of what kids go through.”
Next door neighbors Starla and Bruce Terry spoke of a high and dangerously unstable river bank that goes behind both theirs and the Matchett’s homes.
Over the years, the bank has eroded, and the winding river moved closer and closer to their properties, Starla Terry said.
“I’m saying, he fell off a cliff that if I had my way, wouldn’t have been there,” Starla Terry said.
Various regulations have prevented anyone from clearing debris from the original channel to allow it to move back, something she has wanted done for years, she said.
The Matchett’s house is about nine miles west of Chehalis, near where the South Fork of the Chehalis RIver meets the main fork.
Starla Terry, an accountant, has been on the phone getting pledges from her clients to help pay funeral costs.
The single mother of two works at Home Depot in Chehalis, and doesn’t have a budget for such an expense, she said.
Starla Terry said she has several irons in the fire to help her neighbor with an “utter disaster.”
“He was just such a cute little thing,” she said. “Honest to God, all those long golden curls.”
Anyone who wants to make a donation can contact Starla Terry at 360-245-3334. An account named Nicky Matchett Memorial is set up to take donations at Wells Fargo Bank.
Nicholas’s graveside service is set for 11 a.m. on Thursday at the Boistfort Cemetery.
It will be followed at 1:30 p.m. with a celebration of life and potluck in the gym at Boistfort School, for anyone who would like to attend, according to Apperson.
For background read “Breaking news: Child drowns in Chehalis River” from Friday May 4, 2012 at 7:38 p.m., here