Two firefighters threw a floating rescue rope to a boater who was stranded on a rock — while wearing hip-waders — in deep water in the East Fork of the Lewis River on Wednesday evening, likely saving his life.
The man reportedly became separated from a small pontoon boat.
"He was standing in the middle of the river in chest-high water, on a rock," said Battalion Chief Abe Rommel with Clark County Fire & Rescue. "He was in deep water and somehow he found a rock he could stand on and be stable."
Firefighters were called to Lewisville Park about 6:45 p.m. Wednesday and, when the first engine crew arrived, someone flagged them to where the man was stranded in the east side of the park, Rommel said.
Battle Ground Capt. Scott Galster and Firefighter-paramedic Dave Bridges found the man on his precarious perch. Deciding he would become too hypothermic if they waited for the Technical Rescue Team, they threw a specially made floating rope about 30 feet to the man, who grabbed it.
The rescuers then pulled him to shore and found that he was conscious and breathing but cold. AMR Northwest paramedics took the man to a hospital because he was hypothermic.
His name was not available due to federal medical-privacy laws.
The man was wearing a flotation vest, but water in his hip waders weighted him down. "Three or four gallons of water came out of his waders when we got them off him," Rommel said.
The river is running high from rains and snow melt, but the water wasn't moving fast where the man was, Rommel said.
Had the man remained in the water for 10 or 15 more minutes, he likely would have become too cold to stay on the rock, and too cold to grasp the rope and help with his own rescue, Rommel said.