Quick to help, fishermen aid officers

by: CLACKAMAS COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE - Before sheriff's office boats could arrive, three West Linn fishermen assisted with saving a woman from drowning Wednesday.Three West Linn men helped save a Milwaukie woman from drowning Wednesday when a truck she was in was swept away by the current in the Willamette River at Meldrum Bar Park boat ramp in Gladstone. Her companion drowned.

At about 5 p.m., a Gladstone officer responded to the park on a report of a vehicle stuck on the bar. When he arrived he saw a white truck on Meldrum Bar and two people with two dogs walking toward it. At that point the couple appeared fine.

The Gladstone officer watched as the truck drove back toward the ramp, which was partially covered by water. When the couple tried to drive across the water, it was apparent to the officer the truck was being swept away by the current, according to Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office.

The officer then called for backup and flagged down a fishing boat that was passing by. The fishermen, Jason Vandercook, 34, Jason Challenger, 36, and Jason Jennings, 38, all residents of West Linn, turned around and immediately helped. They were able to rescue Sandra Gracey, 46, of Milwaukie, who was by then treading water. The fishermen did not see her companion, Thomas Ermini, 53, of Milwaukie in the water and took Gracey to shore.

Officers boarded the fishermen’s boat and they went back to start searching for Ermini. Other responders arrived at the scene, including divers from the Gladstone Fire Department. The divers entered the water and searched for Ermini but were unable to locate him.

by: CLACKAMAS COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE - Dive teams searched for the body of drowning victim Thomas Ermini, 53, of Milwaukie, on the Willamette River near Gladstone.Gracey was taken to Providence Milwaukie Hospital as a precaution and is expected to recover fully.

Boats from the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office, Clackamas County Fire Department, Lake Oswego Fire Department and Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue responded to the area to assist with the search. Deputies from the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office and its Search and Rescue also responded to the location.

The extensive search for Ermini was suspended after crews were unable to locate him for an extended period of time. Due to poor visibility in the water for the divers, the recovery attempt was halted Wednesday evening and resumed Thursday morning.

At 11:30 a.m. Nov. 15, rescue divers from the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office, assisted by the Gladstone Fire Department, Lake Oswego Fire Department, CCSO Search and Rescue and the CCSO Marine Unit, located Ermini’s body. He was found underwater about 50 to 100 feet from the last point he was seen in the water.

His family has been notified and the Clackamas medical examiner will determine the cause of death.

There were two chocolate Labs with the couple. At least one of the missing dogs has been found and reunited with family members. The status of the second dog is unknown.

“This tragedy could have been much worse if it had not been for the quick action and willingness to help from the three fishermen,” Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office stated.

Efforts continued to locate and retrieve the victim’s truck with the assistance of an underwater ROV (remotely operated vehicle) operated by a Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office deputy. The vehicle remains missing.

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