Man holds on to friend in river for 20 minutes

Their boat drifted away as they waited for rescue crews

Pete held on to his friend Steve for 20 minutes while they waited for rescue crews to pull Steve out of the frigid Willamette River on February 27, 2017. (KOIN)
Pete held on to his friend Steve for 20 minutes while they waited for rescue crews to pull Steve out of the frigid Willamette River on February 27, 2017. (KOIN)


OREGON CITY, Ore. (KOIN) — What was supposed to be a relaxing fishing trip for 2 men from South Dakota ended in a life or death rescue in the frigid Willamette River Monday night.

Clackamas Fire and Rescue crews rescued a man from the Willamette River after he was stuck hanging off the side. (KOIN)
Clackamas Fire and Rescue crews rescued a man from the Willamette River after he was stuck hanging off the side. (KOIN)

Pete and Steve were loading a boat onto a trailer when it broke loose.

“I backed the truck down to the water and the boat’s out in the middle of the river and Steve’s flailing around in the water,” Pete told KOIN.

Pete said Steve, who admittedly had been drinking, dove into the freezing water to save the drifting boat. Pete told people on the dock to call 911, but not knowing how long it would take for rescuers to arrive, he jumped into action to help his friend.

“Oh my god, what do I do? So I’m peeling clothes [off] and jumping in the water,” Pete said. “Yeah it was nuts.”

Pete was able to get into the boat, but Steve ended up hanging on the edge of the boat.

“I jumped up into the boat I managed to grab him,” Pete said. “I’m still shivering, but I jumped up into the boat and grabbed it but it was like dead weight.”

Pete held on to Steve as they drifted out into the river. Weighed down by his clothes, Steve was unable to pull himself up. He also wasn’t wearing a life jacket.

Steve was the river for about 20 minutes and just as they were starting to losing energy, help arrived.

“I pulled my boat upside to side of him and reached over and grabbed him,” Sgt. Mark Griffith with the Clackamas County water rescue team said. “That’s when I saw his head was completely under water.”

Steve was hospitalized in serious condition but is reportedly conscious and alert. Pete was evaluated at the scene then released.

“I think I saved his life,” Pete said.