Vancouver man, 19, presumed drowned in reservoir

He was swimming with friends when he went under and didn't resurface

By Stevie Mathieu, Columbian Assistant Metro Editor



A 19-year-old Vancouver man is believed to have drowned Sunday afternoon while swimming with friends in Yale Reservoir, according to the Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office.

Emergency crews were called to the reservoir on the Lewis River near Cougar shortly after noon. Friends of the man told deputies that Austin H. Wolford drifted out on an inner tube to a deep area of the reservoir, slipped off and could not get back on, according to a news release issued by the sheriff’s office.

Witnesses said Wolford was not wearing a life jacket and was not a strong swimmer.

“He tried swimming to shore and went under,” Cowlitz sheriff’s Chief Deputy Charlie Rosenzweig said.

The father of Wolford’s girlfriend was nearby at the time of the incident. He tried to rescue Wolford, but the 19-year-old had already disappeared underneath the water by the time he reached the spot where Wolford was last seen, deputies said.

Emergency responders, including a team of divers, unsuccessfully searched for Wolford’s body for several hours Sunday. They will resume their search efforts Monday morning, Rosenzweig said.

The Clark County Sheriff’s Office and Clark County Fire & Rescue helped with the search, he said.

Sunday’s incident is the fifth reported drowning in Clark County waterways in nine days.

On June 28, a 25-year-old Battle Ground man who was boating on the Columbia River disappeared and is presumed to have drowned. Crews have yet to recover his body.

Tuesday afternoon, a 44-year-old Vancouver man died after jumping from some rocks near Moulton Falls on the East Fork of the Lewis River, and an 80-year-old Ridgefield man who had been boating on the North Fork of the Lewis River near Woodland was found dead in the water. Both are believed to have drowned, police said.

Wednesday night, a 42-year-old Vancouver man disappeared below the water after wading into a deep section of Klineline Pond to retrieve a child’s hat that had blown off. After an extensive search, his body was found Thursday afternoon.

None of the four men were wearing life jackets, authorities said. Cold water also may have played a factor in the incidents of drowning, they said, because it can make swimming much more difficult.

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