Search continues for teen missing in Columbia River

Boy is presumed drowned

By Heather Acheson, Columbian staff writer



Local law enforcement has released the names of the people involved in a capsized boat accident Monday morning. The incident resulted in the apparent drowning death of a 13-year-old near the east end of lady Island in Camas.

Involved in the incident were vessel operator Robert R. Schmalz, 59 of Marysville, Wash., and his adult son, Eric. R. Schmalz. 34, of Sedro-Wooley, Wash. The 13-year-old stepson of Eric Schmalz remains missing and is presumed drowned. Eric Schmalz was treated for mild exposure on scene and released, while Robert R. Schmalz remains hospitalized at Oregon Health and Science University and is expected to fully recover.

The incident began at approximately 10:15 a.m., when the vessel, an 18-foot 1996 Smokercraft Sportsman owned and operated by Robert Schmalz, had been anchored near the east end of Lady Island on the Columbia River as the trio had been fishing for sturgeon. When they attempted to pull the anchor up and move to a different fishing spot, the anchor became snagged on the bottom and they were unable to retrieve it by hand.

According to the Clark County Sheriff’s Office, Robert Schmalz attempted to use the power of the vessel engine to pull loose the lodged anchor with the anchor line secured to the boat transom. The vessel lost steerage and turned to point downstream. The strong river current and taunt anchor line resulted in pulling the vessel stern under, quickly swamping the boat until it capsized.

All three occupants were thrown into the river. None of them were wearing personal flotation devices, although adequate PFDs were reportedly on board.

Hoping to find the body of the missing 13-year-old, the Clark County and Multnomah County marine patrol units will conduct a second search of the area using sonar and high definition echo sounder. Subsequent search and rescue efforts will be dependant on river level and conditions.

The investigation is still on-going, although no criminal charges are anticipated.

Also contributing to the search and rescue effort have been the U.S. Coast Guard, Portland Fire, MCSO River Patrol, Port of Camas-Washougal and and SWORD SW Washington Organized Rescue Divers.