Battle Ground man missing after boat found on Columbia River

By Tom Vogt, Columbian science, military & history reporter

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Authorities were continuing to look for a missing 25-year-old Battle Ground resident Saturday night after his unmanned craft was found, with the motor still running, in the Columbia River.

Jay Jones had reportedly been using the 16-foot Smoker Craft outboard to shuttle people back and forth to Bachelor Island, in the Columbia River just west of Ridgefield.

Boats from Clark County Fire & Rescue, the Clark County Sheriff’s Office marine patrol and the Columbia County (Oregon) Sheriff’s Office marine patrol responded to calls of “boater in distress” and “marine accident” at about 5:30 p.m.

At least one 911 caller reported seeing a person in the water, according to the Clark County Sheriff’s Office.

A Coast Guard helicopter based near Astoria, Ore., also was part of the intensive search, said Tim Dawdy, battalion chief with Clark County Fire & Rescue.

The Clark County sheriff’s marine unit found the unmanned boat going in circles near the mouth of the Lewis River, near Woodland, and was able to stop it. Deputies towed it to a boat ramp in Cowlitz County.

Authorities don’t know whether Jones was wearing a life jacket. However, “We really encourage people to wear personal flotation devices,” Dawdy said. “It increases your chances of surviving an accident. The water is cold and very hazardous.”