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Tugboat crew rescues two

Rescue underway. Photo via Morrow County Sheriff’s Office

BOARDMAN, Oregon – Two people from Umatilla were rescued by the Tidewater tugboat Ryan Point after they spent more than three hours clinging to their small, capsized boat in the Columbia River Tuesday.

“The rough water, whitecaps, and the angle of the sun made it difficult to see, but the crew…are no strangers to assisting to those in need on the Columbia River,” a release from the Morrow County Sheriff’s Office states.

The crew reported their discovery to the U.S. Coast Guard, who in turn notified the Morrow County Sheriff’s Office. They reported the two were hypothermic and extremely weak from having been in the rough water.

“One person’s temperature was so low it did not register on the thermometer,” the release states.

The tugboat’s captain, Josh Burrows, determined it was best to treat Derek Alan Ness, 38, and Laurie Dawn Merrell, 47, on the tug rather than risk a boat transfer in open water.

“The crew is well-equipped and well-trained for such emergencies,” the news release states. “They did a great job helping the two recover from their ordeal.”

Numerous officials from the sheriff’s office, Boardman Ambulance and Boardman Fire were on hand to assist when the tug put in at the Tidewater facility in Boardman. Ambulances took the two to a hospital and the firefighters and tugboat deck mechanics transferred the small boat to shore and back on its trailer.

The investigation is continuing. MCSO states that it will consider the condition of the boat and if all required safety items were on board at the time the craft launched from Umatilla. The investigators deferred at the scene to let families reunite and allow the couple to recuperate from their ordeal.

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