Woman drowns in Deschutes River
Victim caught beneath Colorado Avenue Bridge
By Christine Metz / TheBendn OR Bulletin
July 10. 2006
A woman drowned in the Deschutes River on Sunday afternoon after getting caught in the spillway underneath the Colorado Avenue Bridge. The woman, whose name and age had not been released late Sunday by the Bend Fire Department, was rafting with a group of about six people, witnesses said. The entire group went through the spillway and one other person in the party was taken to St. Charles Medical Center-Bend with minor injuries, Capt. Bill Boos said.
At around 4 p.m., the party, which was dispersed among two rafts and two inner tubes, failed to navigate to the marked takeout point just before the spillway, witnesses said. To avoid going over the dam, the Bend Metro Parks and Recreation District has placed signs and buoys along the river to direct people to exit the river before Colorado Avenue Bridge. Rafters can walk around the bridge and re-enter the river at McKay Park. The other members of the party got out of their rafts and tumbled through the spillway. All but one were able to get to the side of the river, Boos said.
The Bend Fire Department said there were 10 people in the party, but witnesses said they saw about six people floating together. No one in the party was wearing life jackets, witnesses said. State law requires life vests to be on board for every passenger in an inflatable boat.
The woman's death comes a day after crews rescued a 78-year-old who was stranded on a rock just below the spillway. At around 11:30 a.m. Saturday, the 78-year-old and four others went through the spillway. Everyone in that party suffered injuries, but none of the injuries was life threatening, according to a Bend Fire Department news release. It appeared the woman who drowned Sunday afternoon was caught on rocks or the support structure of the bridge, Boos said.
More than 50 people - many passing by on bikes and with inner tubes - lined the banks at McKay Park to watch the rescue effort. Three women who were floating near the party most of the afternoon said they tried to warn the group that they were heading toward the spillway and screamed at them to get out of the river. One of the children in the group had lost her inner tube and was heading toward the spillway to retrieve it, the women said. "An inner tube got away - they were laughing," said Lacy Fertello, who witnessed the accident. "We were screaming 'get out of the water'; they were so close." The rafters, except the woman who died, were able to make it out of their rafts and were holding on to the side, another witness, Erin Smith, said. Others in the party were trying to help the woman out of the raft, but she didn't get out, Smith said. "Four of them on the yellow raft were trying to help her get out," Fertello said. "She didn't get out of the raft and then they just got sucked under." Kim Gair, who was running near the bridge shortly after the accident and stopped to help, said she was told by the woman's sister-in-law that the woman who died couldn't swim. She also said the sister-in-law told her the rapid water entering the spillway caught the group by surprise. The water before the spillway looks calm, but picks up speed tremendously before going over the dam, Gair said."They couldn't get out at that point," Gair said. The group had recently moved to Bend from Hawaii, Gair said, and floating the river was new to them. Fertello, who was taking her first float trip of the year, said she was outraged that better warnings are not given to those floating down the river and pointed to Saturday's accident. "I want this to change," Fertello said. "Things need to be fixed."
Christine Metz can be reached at 617-7837 or at email@example.com.
Woman drowns in Deschutes River near Bend Monday,
July 10, 2006 ktvz.com Staff
BEND, Ore. -- A woman got trapped underwater and drowned after going over a spillway in the Deschutes River near Bend, authorities said. The woman was floating with a large group of rafters and inner-tubers, including several children, who failed to pull out of the river in time, despite warnings that treacherous rapids were ahead.The victim's name had not been released as of 3 p.m. Monday Battalion Chief Bill Boos said witnesses told investigators that one inner tube started pulling away and they went after it, floating past the takeout point and quickly getting "sucked into" the dangerous spillway. Others in the river or onshore screamed warnings to the rafting party as it approached the spillway, but they apparently went unheard or unheeded, at least until it was too late. "Just before the dam, we saw the sign and we knew we had to get out," said witness Lacey Fertell. "I was explaining to them because they had never been down right here - I was explaining, "You need to get out right here and not anywhere else, you know, because you can get taken under, and it's dangerous."
The large rafting party included 10 people in two rafts and two inner tubes. Several members of the group had just moved to Bend from Hawaii about a week earlier, Boos said, and none of them were wearing life jackets. This was 17th apparent drowning in Oregon in recent weeks, and the second on the Deschutes in just four days."At a moment's notice, a fun event in the water can turn into a disastrous experience," Boos said.
Last summer, Bend Elks baseball player Michael Wilhite drowned just upstream from the spillway. He had been drinking and flipped the raft a day before his 21st birthday. After that tragedy, more signs and warning buoys were installed by the Bend Metro Parkand Recreation District, in an effort to make sure those floating the river knew they needed to go to the takeout point before reaching the bridge.
Deschutes River claims two lives
One body has been recovered and one is still waiting to be pulled from the water.
The body of a drowning victim is found, but not recovered. Searchers spotted the body of 17-year-old Danielle Hagler in the Deschutes River Sunday night, more than three days after she was dumped out of her raft near Maupin. "We searched the riverbanks for three hours after it occurred and didn't find anything. Some fishermen who were down river from us said they were there all afternoon and didn't see anything come by," said Ken Jensen. He was in the group rafting with Hagler. Hagler was wearing a life jacket at the time of the accident.