Sheriff: Body found near where man went missing in river

Sheriff: Body found near where man went missing in river
Search and Rescue crews renewed the search for the man Thursday morning. (Photo by Valerie Hurst, KATU News)

GLADSTONE, Ore. – Rescue personnel pulled a body from the Willamette River Thursday morning near where a man went missing Wednesday evening, the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office said Thursday.

Deputies have not said if the body is that of the missing man. They said the body was given to a medical examiner.

The search for the man who disappeared beneath the surface of the Willamette River began near Meldrum Bar Park Wednesday evening but was later suspended for the night, according to the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office.

Search teams resumed the search Thursday morning at 7 a.m. but just before 10 a.m. said they were focusing on recovering the missing man and his truck form the water.

According to witnesses, a truck with a man, his girlfriend and two dogs drove down to a gravel area near the river Wednesday evening at about 5 p.m. The water began to rise and flooded the area, and the couple attempted to get back to a boat dock in their truck.

"They started driving in, and then all of the sudden their headlights started going into the water, and then their truck started floating," said witness Kenny Willsey.

The man, woman and the dogs escaped the truck and began swimming to shore. The man, however, trying to help the woman, became exhausted and disappeared beneath the surface of the water.

The woman screamed for help and fishermen on a nearby boat heard her, found her and pulled her to safety, the witnesses said. She was taken to the hospital and is expected to be fine, deputies said.

"We could barely just see her arm, her hand splashing in the water, her head wasn't even above water," said fisherman Jason Jennings, who helped pulled the woman out of the water. "She was at the end. Had we been any later, we might not have found her."

"She didn't look good. She was going up and down - struggling," said Jason Vandercook, who was also fishing on the boat.

On Thursday, the woman's son said she was not injured and was out of the hospital after suffering from hypothermia.

A nighttime rescue operation was initiated to find the man but because of poor visibility officials were forced to suspend the search.

Deputies said there were two chocolate labs with the couple and one of the dogs, Josie, was seen along the shore but wouldn't allow anyone near her. The other dog remains unaccounted for.

Crews tried to get Josie off the sand bar Thursday morning without success. The dog eventually swam back to shore and ran off, a KATU photojournalist at the scene said. It was later found unharmed.

The dive team from the Clackamas Water Rescue Consortium used sonar as well as their divers in the search. Other area agencies also joined the search.

KATU News reporter Patrick Preston contributed to this report.