On June 15th, 2022, at about 6:30pm, Officer Reams, with his Field Training Officer Perez responded to a report of a swimmer in distress in the Columbia River near the ferry dock. The Columbia River was extremely high due to continual rains, and there are areas of flooding in the city. The water temperature of the river was 56 degrees.
Upon their arrival, Officers Reams and Perez located the swimmer who was stuck in the river with her foot caught in the rocks on the bottom. The swimmer was nearing exhaustion from her continued exposure to the swift, cold water. Officers were joined by Mid-Columbia Fire and Rescue personnel. The swimmer advised that she had been caught in the river for over 30 minutes, and that she had made the emergency call from her Apple watch. The swimmer was showing signs of hypothermia and she was in obvious distress.
Fire personnel attempted to provide a ladder to the swimmer, and to pry apart the rocks in which her foot was stuck from the shore. These rescue attempts were unsuccessful and the swimmer’s condition continued to deteriorate.
Officer Reams assessed the scene and determined that the rescue of the swimmer needed to be immediate, and that he would be able to aid in the rescue only by entering the water to feel how the entrapment was occurring, since the water was too murky and fast to allow any visible inspection from above. Officer Reams left his ballistic vest and duty belt on the shore and cautiously entered the water downstream of the swimmer. Officer Reams reached under the water and was just able to reach the swimmer’s foot. Only Officer Reams’ head was not submerged. Officer Reams was able to free the swimmer’s stuck foot and bring her to shore and the care of the fire fighters.
Please use extreme caution when swimming and never swim alone. Local waterways are cold and the rivers continue to fun fast.