A windsurfer had a near miss on Friday when he almost collided with an oncoming barge on the Columbia River just west of Spring Creek Hatchery.
According to sheriff reports, Neal E. Tirie of Calgary, Alberta, was forced to dive underneath the water to avoid being struck by the front corner of the vessel. He was towed to safety by Dale Cook, a Hood River sailor who witnessed the incident which occurred in the early afternoon.
“His gear and everything got swallowed up and he was okay but his eyes were pretty big and he just wanted to get to the shoreline,” said Cook, who helped the traumatized windsurfer recover his equipment when it surfaced about 45 minutes later.
Cook was on the water just west of the scene and said Tirie was looking away from the oncoming craft and was unaware of its approach until it was almost too late.
“This is the closest call we’ve heard about in a long time,” said Hood River County Undersheriff Dwayne Troxel. “There are a lot of these near-miss incidents that happen simply because people forget to look up.”
He said it takes a long distance for a large vessel to stop and it is the responsibility of water sport enthusiasts to surveil their surroundings.
“People need to be aware of what is going on around them on the river because there is a lot of boat and barge traffic,” said Troxel.