Two Men Drown on Father’s Day

EUGENE, Ore. –It was a tragic weekend for some people who spent Father’s Day on the river.

Two people drowned in two separate incidents on Sunday.

Officers say 40-year old Allen McGill from Oakridge was swimming in the Willamette River near the gravel bar under Beltline.

Rescue crews say they received calls of a man struggling while floating downstream. Crews looked for him for about an hour before calling off the search.

His body was found Monday morning near the River Ridge Golf Course.

Around 3pm on Sunday rescue crews were called to an accident on the Marten Rapids near Vida. A nearby photographer caught the crash on camera.

“We knew right away before they even got to the white water that they did not know what they were doing,” said photographer Mark Lull.

Peter Rutkowski, 38, of Eugene and his father Edwin, 68, from Washington were drifting downstream in a red canoe.
They tried to steer clear from traveling down the fast moving rapids –but they hit a rock–which allowed the current to get underneath the boat and flip them.

“We were trying to signal them what to do and they had no clue,” said Lull.

They both drifted down stream but Edwin went under just moments later while Peter survived.

“There’s obviously lots of lessons learned because we lost a life in this situation,” said Lane County Search and Rescue coordinator John MIller.

Unfortunately, tragedies like these aren’t uncommon in Oregon having them caught on tape is and hopefully in this case, will help drive home a number of key lessons to would-be river goers.

Miller says the video shows just how fast the river is. The two men didn’t appear to be in grave danger but it only took a second for that change. He also points out that while Marten Rapids is a popular place to recreate, it’s not a safe place for a canoe.

“It’s not an inflatable,” said Miller. “You know, the rafts are permanently buoyant. The canoes, when they get full of water they are done.”

So what about when you do flip? He says you should try to hold on to your boat if it’s buoyant, grabbing onto any rocks or trees is obvious, but as we saw in this case, most river rocks are incredibly slippery, making them almost impossible to grip.

If you do end up getting swept by the current like these men–

“Keep your feet pointed downstream and work with the current, let the current take you but work with the current toward the shore,” said Miller.

And the most obvious lesson to be taken from the tragedy is life jackets, neither father or son had one on. The message may normally just come across as a simple warning. The hope this time is – the visual proof of how dangerous it can be to not wear one – may help save a life in the future.

“I think our education is paying off but every year when we lose people, it’s not enough,” said Miller.

Lane County Search and Rescue will hold its Second Annual Life Jacket Exchange at Cabela’s in the Gateway Mall this weekend.

Officers say it’s a great opportunity to pick up a life jacket or swap in an old one.

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