A 17-year-boy who was stranded on a sandbar in the Columbia River at Woodland was rescued late Sunday night by a Clark County Fire & Rescue boat team.
Battalion Chief Tim Dawdy said this is what happened:
Two adults and five teens were boating on the Columbia when a rope became tangled in the propeller of the boat’s engine. The engine died and the boaters could not get it started.
The Vancouver group, who had no marine radio or cellphones, floated a half-mile downstream from the Lewis River and were able to ground the boat on an island.
Two teenage boys decided to swim for help but the current was severe and the water cold.
“Can you imagine sending two teenagers across the Columbia with no life jackets to get help?” Dawdy said.
One boy made it back to the island but the other, Antonio Danda, 17, was swept down the river. He was able to stand up on a sandbar near Dike Road.
However, Danda was waist-deep in the river for three hours before help could arrive, Dawdy said. Around dusk the boaters were then able to flag down help, who called 911. Clark County Fire & Rescue was dispatched about 9 p.m.
Cowlitz County District 1 Fire Chief Eric Dehning located Danda in the water and guided the 19-foot jet-powered rescue boat around dikes and obstructions in a narrow part of the channel to where the teen was standing. Dehning never took his eye off Danda, said Dawdy.
“It’s very fortunate. The kid is very lucky,” he said.
After getting Danda out of the water, they took him to a boat ramp near the mouth of the Lewis River where a paramedic was waiting. As he warmed up in the ambulance, the crew retrieved the rest of the people on the disabled boat, who were all unharmed.
“I’m really glad we were able to save this one,” Dawdy said.
Dawdy said he’s seen too many drowning incidences along the Columbia River among people who are on the water without life jackets. He recommends people have a marine radio or at least a cellphone when going out on a boat. He said everyone on the boat should have a life jacket and no one should go swimming without wearing one.
“I know the weather is nice, but the Columbia is really cold. If you jump in the Columbia without a life jacket on, you’re in trouble,” Dawdy said.
Dawdy praised the efforts of the other agencies who responded: Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office, Cowlitz County Dive Team and Woodland Police Department.