Firefighters, police rescue man standing in Columbia River

Apparently catatonic, he refused to leave the water; swimmers, fire boat crew remove him

By Dave Kern, Columbian assistant metro editor

Published:

Updated: October 16, 2011, 8:50 PM

 

At least a dozen police officers and firefighters worked Sunday afternoon to get a 26-year-old man to come out of the Columbia River at Vancouver Landing.

It took three firefighters in the water and a fire rescue boat to finally remove him from the river shortly after 3 p.m.

The man was standing waist deep in the river with his head down. He was about 15 feet from the shore and 40 feet from the dock near the Red Lion Hotel Vancouver at the Quay.

Starting about 2 p.m., Vancouver police Cpl. Greg Zimmerman began urging the man to come out of river.

“Mark, can you hear me?” Zimmerman called to the man, who did not respond. “We can’t leave you here.”

Zimmerman continually told the man he wanted to help. Throughout the ordeal, the man refused to talk to rescuers.

After efforts failed to get the man to come out of the river, firefighters in rescue gear brought him to the strip of shoreline.

No one seemed to know what caused the man’s actions. He stood catatonic in the river with his arms held at his sides. From time to time he would, shudder. He was barefooted.

Zimmerman and Vancouver police officers John Key and Brett Bailey worked their way down the steep rocky slope to the shore, below a parking lot near the amphitheater.

Soon, they were joined by fire Capt. Dave Sturbelle and Firefighters Jesse Weyrauch, Tommy Fieweger and Dan Lawson.

A Multnomah County, Ore., sheriff’s boat responded with Deputies Bret Lort and Scott McDowell and Sgt. Wayne Lofton.

It turned the boat was not needed but the Multnomah officers joined Vancouver Firefighter Joe Spatz in Fire Rescue Boat 1 to get the man from the shore to the dock.

An AMR crew including Lisa Schauer and Haili Vance took the man to PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center.

Several onlookers, including fishermen, were on and above the dock during the more than one-hour effort.

The man’s name was not released.

Vancouver police Sgt. Kathy McNicholas said there were no indication of any criminal activity tied to the man.