Rescuers help three from Columbia near Wyeth

Three Native American anglers declined medical treatment after rescuers pulled them from the cold and wind-shipped Columbia River waters near Wyeth on Wednesday morning.

Columbia Inter-Tribal Fisheries Commission (CRITFC) personnel and Hood River County Sheriff Matt English and Chief Deputy Brian Rockett responded after other boaters spotted an overturned 17-foot fishing boat with three people in the water. Two of the victims — a 48-year-old woman and the captain, a 42-year-old man — were clinging to the boat, while a woman, age 18, who was wearing a flotation device, was downstream. “She was floating down river, but they got her out of water really quickly,” English said.

“She tried to swim ashore, but soon realized how strong the current was,” said CRITFC Enforcement Chief Mitch Hicks.

The CRITFC boat, skippered by Jerry Ekker, came to her aid and one of the people on the boat. Assisting were officers Mike Cook and Larry Risley.

The third occupant, the boat captain, was picked up by another fisherman, according to English.

“They were all cold, they been in water a bit, but we got them into warm clothing, and they refused further medical aid,” English said.

He described river conditions in the area as “really windy and rough.”

English said the county Marine Patrol boat was ready to go, “but it could not have gotten there as fast as they (CRITFC) could,” he said.

CRITFC hooked up the swamped boat and towed it to shore at Wyeth in-lieu site, where the victims received aid.

The incident is under investigation, according to Hicks, with consideration given to the rough weather and swells at the time and the size of the craft and weight on board; Hicks said the boat was carrying “between 25 and 50” freshly caught fish, and was on its way back to shore when it swamped.

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