Race boat pilot uses parachute after flipping on Columbia River

Race boat pilot uses parachute after flipping on Columbia River

PORTLAND, Ore. – The pilot of a high-speed racing boat had to parachute out of the boat after it flipped several times on the Columbia River on Thursday afternoon.

Lt. Mark Matsushima with the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office said the boat’s operator was training for an upcoming race around 1:50 p.m. near Northeast 185th and Marine Drive when his boat malfunctioned.

The craft, traveling at speeds near 200 mph, then flipped over several times. That's when a safety system on the boat ejected the man and deployed a parachute.

Several support boats were in the area to help pull the victim to safety.

The boat driver's cousin was among the people who came to his aid. Blake Tubbs was on a wave runner when he saw the splash of water.

"He was conscious at that point but pretty injured, it was obvious," Tubbs said. "He was conscious, talking, a little dazed but he could still move everything."

Matsushima said the operator was taken to Legacy Emanuel Medical Center where he is listed in "serious" condition.

He said the boat had a built-in safety system that is required for competitive racing and that likely saved the pilot's life.

The boat was a drag boat with a small hull and large engine, Matsushima said.

According to the man’s family, he lives on the marina with his family. He's been drag racing for a couple years on a boat he built.

The drag racing boat sank almost immediately. The river patrol plans to be back out Friday morning to recover it.

KATU News reporter Erica Nochlin contributed to this report.