Kayakers safe after capsizing in Washougal River

By Dave Kern, Columbian assistant metro editor

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A Vancouver man and woman were able to walk to safety after their inflatable kayaks capsized in the Washougal River on Sunday afternoon.

“A big plus for wearing a life jacket,” said Sgt. Craig Randall of the Clark County Sheriff’s Office. He said the kayakers were Venessa Lopez, 25, and Eric Gonzales, age unknown, both of Vancouver.

About 2:45 p.m. Sunday, the two put in near the Big Eddy at Milepost 8, said Chief Scott Koehler of East County Fire & Rescue.

“They had just put in and hit a rock or something,” Koehler said. “It’s a real rocky area, just a couple of channels.”

He said Lopez got in the south channel and overturned and Gonzales was in the north channel that speeded him away from Lopez.

Gonzales’ kayak went another two miles and he did not have a clue about what had happened to Lopez, Koehler said.

“It (Gonzales’ kayak) got away right at Vernon Road,” Koehler said. “It took him another mile (downstream) to get to the shore.”

He headed back up the highway to search for Lopez.

Meanwhile, Lopez went upstream. “Today was very, very shallow and she was coached across the river by some folks who live there,” Koehler said.

Gonzales saw visitor Kyle Beazley, 19, of Spokane and asked to use his cellphone. With the phone, Gonzales called 911.

“This was the first time that they had run the Washougal River,” Koehler said.

Koehler said his crews have responded to Washougal River fatalities. “Be careful to not underestimate the river. These folks were lucky today,” Koehler said.

About 12 firefighters responded to the incident.