Newberg youth drowns in Willamette
A local youth died Tuesday evening after succumbing to the strong waters of the Willamette River near Newberg.
According to a news release from Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue, fire personnel were dispatched to Rogers Landing at about 6 p.m. after receiving a 911 call indicating that a swimmer "had gone under the water and was no longer visible," the release said.
TVF&R dispatched its water rescue team to the marine park and deployed a boat to begin searching for 18-year-old Wesley J. Warmoth, who reportedly was not wearing a lifejacket or personal floatation device at the time of the incident.
The water rescue team used thermal imaging technology and rescue swimmers, but could not find Warmoth after searching for more than an hour. At that point the search transitioned from rescue to recovery mode with the aid of a dive rescue team from the Lake Oswego Fire Department. A TVF&R chaplain was among the approximately 30 personnel dispatched to the scene.
Warmoth was found at about 8:45 p.m. in 20 feet of water a short distance downstream from Rogers Landing.
"Our hearts go out to the family of this young man," Yamhill County Sheriff Tim Svenson said. "This is a tragic situation that unfortunately plays out too often in Oregon rivers and lakes. We will keep this family in our thoughts."
An initial report from the scene didn't indicate whether Warmoth was swimming from the dock at Rogers Landing, which has signs posted "no swimming." However, YCSO Capt. Chris Ray said, "The young man was swimming in an area east of the park, from what I understand. He was not swimming off the dock."
Rogers Landing is leased to the county by WestRock and the city of Newberg, but the Oregon Marine Board controls the dock and the boat launch area.
TVF&R's water rescue teams, stationed in Newberg and West Linn, responded to 55 incidents in 2019 and typically staffs five to six water rescue technicians to respond around the clock, the release said. Drownings and near-drownings typically occur between May and August and happen on open water like lakes, rivers and the ocean for older youth, but younger children typically fall victim to drowning in swimming pools, hot tubs, wading pools and other devices that store water.
Rogers Landing is the most popular boat launch on the Willamette River, but doesn't feature a designated swimming area due to strong currents and debris that often collects in that portion of the river.
"There have been a couple of incidents of kids being swept away by the current," Ray said when queried whether the YCSO has seen an uptick in water-related incidents during the summer. "Fortunately, they were wearing floatation devices. Obviously, the more people who are in the water, the more opportunity there is for a tragic accident to occur.
"Oregon waters, especially rivers, can be extremely dangerous. The water remains cold under the surface, even in the summers. That shock to the body, coupled with swift currents, can be a recipe for disaster. Using a personal flotation device almost eliminates the chances of a drowning."
Ray said he was not aware of whether alcohol played a part in the youth's death, but added that it would be up to the county medical examiner whether an autopsy would be performed or a toxicology report ordered.
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