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Swimmer drowns crossing Sandy River

Friends described Andy Panyanouvath as a strong swimmer

TROUTDALE - A 20-year-old Southeast Portland man, described as a strong swimmer, drowned Wednesday evening in the Sandy River near Dabney State Park.

Andy Panyanouvath was swimming with a friend near the park at 7:50 p.m. Wednesday, June 28, when he began to swim across the river, trying to reach the opposite bank, said Lt. Jason Gates, Multnomah County Sheriff's Office spokesman.

He was 10 feet away from the rocks near the opposite shore when he got caught in a strong current, panicked and went under, Gates said.

Witnesses immediately called 9-1-1 and officials from a number of agencies began a search for Panyanouvath.

American Medical Response and Gresham Fire and Emergency Services dispatched swift water rescue teams to do a surface dive, in which rescuers swim along the surface and visually inspect the river bottom in an attempt to locate the victim.

The Multnomah County Sheriff's Office Dive Team was deployed at 9:16 p.m.

Panyanouvath's body was found at 9:45 p.m., approximately 50-75 feet downstream from where he went under, Gates said.

His friend described Panyanouvath as being a strong swimmer who was in good physical shape, but Gates said the river could be incredibly dangerous because of the fast-moving currents and cold water.

'Even an experienced lifeguard would have had a hard time saving him,' Gates said.

Sheriff's officials do not believe that drugs or alcohol were involved in the incident.