Columbia Gorge winds turned deadly for researcher




PORTLAND — The Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission has released more details about the capsizing earlier this month of a research vessel near Multnomah Falls that resulted in the death of Greg George, 56, a Yakama tribal member.

The day started at 8:30 am April 7 when the crew checked in with the Portland office and reported that the Columbia River just below Bonneville Dam was calm and that they were heading to Phoca Rock for their morning sea lion count.

Phoca Rock is an outcrop across from Cape Horn, 13 miles downstream from Bonneville Dam.

On their return, river conditions worsened and a large wave broke over the bow of the boat, capsizing it.

The crew members were able to exit the cabin and held on to the capsized vessel until it sank.

All were wearing flotation devices and were retrieved from the water by the Gresham Fire and Rescue team, who were dispatched after receiving 911 calls.

George died after being flown to a Portland hospital. He was part of a well-known fishing family and had decades of experience as both a fisherman and research technician.

The boat was a 3-year-old, 26-foot research vessel that was equipped with twin engines, a self-bailing deck and the latest navigation and safety equipment, according to the CRITFC information.

The other three crew members received care for mild hypothermia in area hospitals and were released later that day. The surviving crew members were Bobby Begay and Maria Jim, both Yakama Nation members, and Tyler Simmons, a Umatilla tribal member.

“He (George) loved the river and saw the importance of his job protecting salmon,’’ said Davis Washines, Yakama Nation general council chairman. “We can now say that he truly dedicated his life to this effort. He worked for something important and this work goes on.’’

“The Columbia River offers many gifts but its power makes it dangerous, even for the most experienced,’’ said Leland Bill, chairman of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission.