An 11-year-old boy, who was part of a Ridgefield Church of the Nazarene youth group visiting Hood River, Ore., drowned Wednesday in the Columbia River, and a youth pastor has not been found following an extensive search.
The Hood River Sheriff’s Office said in a news release that 911 calls came in shortly before 7 p.m. about five to six swimmers in distress in the river off the sandbar at Marina Beach. Hood River police officers responded and found two swimmers from the church were unaccounted for.
Andrew Inskeep, 44, of Ridgefield had not been located as of Thursday evening. The 11-year-old boy is not being identified due to his age.
Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission Enforcement officers were the first to launch a rescue boat, with a Hood River officer aboard. A 911 caller on the Washington side of the river reported that he spotted someone floating near the mouth of White Salmon River, according to the sheriff’s office.
The boat arrived in the area and was able to pull the boy out of the water at 7:38 p.m.
“Life-saving efforts were immediately initiated while en route to the Hood River Marina, where they were met by Hood River Fire & EMS. The juvenile was transported to Providence Hood River Memorial Hospital, where he was later pronounced deceased,” the sheriff’s office said.
Officials continued searching for Inskeep. Multiple law enforcement agencies in Oregon and Washington joined the effort. Hood River deputies flew an airplane over the area, but the operation was called off after dark.
The search started again Thursday morning with multiple agencies and a dive team joining in. Search efforts were stopped around noon, “having yielded nothing,” the sheriff’s office said.
Water and air searches will continue in the coming days.
Authorities say the church group was in Hood River as part of a youth outing, which included 18 kids and adults at the beach.
Of the swimmers who were initially reported as struggling in the water, the others were able to either reach safety themselves or were rescued by adult church sponsors or nearby windsurfers.
Ridgefield Church of the Nazarene Pastor Jason Matters has asked that the families and church community be given space to grieve as they deal with the tragedy.