Hood River County Sheriff’s Officers involved in ‘hairy’ river rescue

Hood River County Sheriff’s deputies had their mettle tested on the Fourth of July when rough conditions on the Columbia River made rescuing two men and a dog who were trapped on a capsized boat in the river exceedingly difficult... and dangerous.

Early in the afternoon of July 4, Marine Deputy Mike Anderson and Reserve Deputy Mike Renault of the Hood River County Sheriff’s Office responded to multiple calls from boaters at the Hood River Marina who reported they had seen a sailboat capsize in the marina basin.

By the time Anderson and Renault got to the water 12 minutes later, the watercraft had “got sucked out of the Marina and pulled to the confluence of the Hood River,” according to Anderson.

“The water level was about three feet above normal, which makes the current faster than normal,” he explained.

The deputies launched their own 24-foot motor boat to catch up with the 16-foot O’Day sailboat that was drifting down a choppy Columbia River, upside down, with Hood River resident Hahn Huang, the owner of the boat, and William Yang, of New York, and a large dog clinging to the keel of the overturned vessel. Anderson, who was captaining the boat, quickly caught up to the capsized sailboat, but the four- to five-foot swells and the sustained 20-m.p.h. wind gusts made the rescue anything but speedy.

“Normally we’d have someone swim out to us, but because of the swells and the wind that wasn’t an option,” he explained.

“It was pretty hairy out there,” Anderson added.

Not only that, Yang informed the deputies he was unable to swim. Also adding to the difficulty of the rescue were ropes trailing underwater from the sailboat’s downed rigging, which Anderson feared would get sucked into the boat’s propulsion system and leave everyone “dead in the water.”

The trailing ropes meant Anderson had to remain upstream of the downed craft while maneuvering his own vessel close enough so that Renault could grab the people and their pet and pull them to safety, but stay far enough away so the Sheriff’s vessel didn’t bump into the sailboat and knock the passengers into the water.

Anderson said he had to make multiple approaches and do “a lot of maneuvering” before Renault was finally able to pull the men and the dog off the boat.

“It felt like forever, but it was probably about 20 minutes,” Anderson said of the rescue.

The men were transported to shore, where they were treated and released for a knee laceration and hypothermia. Anderson noted as it happened, Hood River EMS were already in the area, dealing with a two-car accident near the Hood River Bridge.

The dog also made it out just fine and was tearing around the parking lot of the marina after the rescue.

Anderson and Renault then went to tow the sailboat to shore, which at that point had drifted almost all the way west to Wells Island. It was discovered to have extensive damage, including a mast that had snapped at the base.

“What happened was when he (the captain of the sailboat) went to turn on his motor, he forgot to unsheet the sail,” Anderson explained. “The sail caught air and flipped him over, which can happen in the blink of an eye.”

The boat may be in bad condition — Anderson believed it was totaled — but he was pleased everyone got out of the situation safely.

“It was hard,” Anderson said of the rescue. “I’ve been doing this for 10 years and this was the worst technical rescue I’ve done in quite some time.”

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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