Near-drowning prompts warning

July 23, 2005

A father almost drowned on Thursday afternoon while trying to swim against a swift current to reach his children on a sandbar.

Hood River Port officials said the incident was not the first of its kind this season, as people underestimate the swift current in that area. The agency has received several reports in recent weeks of swimmers, especially children, who got into trouble as a result of the strong water flows near the mouth of the Hood River.

Although the dangers are listed on caution signs located at the Marine swim beach, many recreationsts appear not to be aware of the drastic change in water depth. Dave Harlan, port director, said the water can change from a few feet to 10 feet or more within just a few steps. When you add in a strong current around the sandbar, he said the situation can spell trouble.

“Parents should be aware of the hazards as they supervise their children,” said Harlan.

Hood River Assistant Fire Chief Devon Wells said more caution is necessary on the river because of the hidden elements. He said a father playing with his four children near the sandbar became exhausted shortly after 3 p.m. on July 21 when two of them panicked after losing their flotation devices. When the man tried to swim against the current to reach his young charges, he quickly became exhausted and had to be rescued by nearby boaters.

“It definitely shows the dangers of swimming in open water. People just need to be very, very careful,” said Wells.

Port Marine Park has one of Hood River’s only swimming sites along the Columbia River shoreline. Other port areas, such as the Event Site, the Hook and the Spit, are dedicated to windsurfing, kiteboarding, boating and fishing.

The port also wants to remind swimmers that jumping and diving off the cruise ship dock adjacent to the Event Site is prohibited. The port is working with the Hood River City Police Department to patrol the area. Violators will be given a $250 fine and removed from the property.

Harlan said the dock was not designed for swimmers and is a dangerous place to jump from because of ship traffic, submerged rocks and the height. “No swimming” signs are posted in that location and no one without the port’s permission can walk onto, jump from, dive from or otherwise use this area.

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For more information, call the port at 386-1645 or visit www.portofhoodriver.com

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