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Disasters & Accidents

Officials Warn Of River Dangers After Rescues From McKenzie, North Santiam

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Eugene Springfield Fire
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Local crews made two river rescues over the weekend.

Eugene Springfield Fire water rescue crews were called to the McKenzie River in Springfield Saturday after receiving reports of three people trapped on a log in the middle of the river behind RiverBend Hospital.

Crews arrived to find one person still needing help after a tubing incident and used a boat to bring them to shore.

Also on Saturday, Albany Firefighters responded to the North Santiam river in Jefferson. Crews rescued six people who were snagged on hazardous trees and strainers. A strainer is an obstruction in a river where limited water can flow through and can cause debris or people to become pinned.  The water levels were shallow in portions of the river but the currents were swift.  

AFD launched a water rescue using two water crafts and also deployed a rescue swimmer.  All six individuals were rescued and transported to shore for evaluation by Jefferson Fire Department.  The victims had entered the river at Green Bridges to float.

With warmer temperatures hitting the area this week, more people are expected to recreate near water. Eugene Springfield Fire urges citizens to take extra precautions when floating the river this year as debris from the Holiday Farm Fire has increased the number of river hazards. Albany Fire says the Santiam and Willamette rivers are treacherous right now.  Logs, brush, cold temperatures, and fluctuating river levels create unsafe conditions. 

Officials say trees and branches can be deadly when combined with hydraulic forces in a flowing river. They recommend all water users wear life vests, research a river before recreating, share plans with family or friends before heading out, and consider not drinking alcohol while on the water. 

Last December, a teenage girl and her father drowned in the Willamette River after their paddleboards became entangled in a downed tree. The two were wearing life vests.

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