Tuesday, May 20, 2008
The U.S. Coast Guard is stressing the need for boating safety after one man died and three others nearly drowned this weekend when their boat flipped in the mouth of the Klamath River. The four men were fishing near the mouth of the river around 1:40 p.m., and apparently drifted into the 15-foot breakers piling up there. The 16-foot flat-bottomed jet boat capsized, and a rescue mission got under way that included a boat from the Yurok Tribe, a Del Norte County Sheriff vessel, a U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary vessel and a Coast Guard HH-65 helicopter out of McKinleyville. Two of the men were able to stay with the boat, said Coast Guard Lt. j.g. Todd Vorenkamp, and were rescued by the tribal boat. When the helicopter arrived, it spotted one man being tossed in the surf along the beach, Vorenkamp said. ”We pretty much assumed the worst,” he said. The chopper lowered a rescue swimmer to the beach to assess the condition of the man, who was unresponsive to first aid.
Coast Guard HH-65 HelicopterThe swimmer also determined that none of the bystanders on the beach were from the boat, which meant there was one more victim unaccounted for. The man was later transferred to the Del Norte County Coroner's office. About 20 minutes later, the helicopter spotted the other man 2 miles offshore, trying to stay afloat. The helicopter lowered a rescue basket and recovered the man, whose prosthetic leg had made it difficult for him to swim. The man was severely hypothermic after an hour and a half in the 55-degree water. The three survivors were taken to Mercy Hospital. Vorenkamp said that anyone on the water should have personal safety gear and proper clothes. If you are in a boating accident, it is best to stick with the vessel, he said, since it's much easier to spot from the air.