A 13-year-old boy who was on the Columbia River with family is presumed to have drowned in a Memorial Day boating accident.
The boy was sturgeon fishing with his father and grandfather when their 18-foot boat capsized near Lady Island at about 10 a.m. Monday.
Sheriff's deputies said the trio had tried to pull the anchor up and go to a different fishing spot, but the anchor became snagged and the fishermen were unable to retrieve it by hand. They tried to use the power of the boat's engine to pull the anchor loose, but the boat lost its steerage, turned and pointed downstream.
The strong current and the tightly drawn anchor line quickly pulled the boat's stern under and the boat capsized.
Other boaters rescued the father and grandfather, whom deputies identified as 34-year-old Eric Schmalz and 59-year-old Robert Schmalz, but the teenage boy remains missing.
"There was a boat right behind me. They went after grandpa, and grandpa was barely holding on under water, they pulled him on board," said Troy Campbell, who helped rescue the boaters. "The dad, hanging on to an ice chest, told me, 'Don't help me. Go find my son. Go find my son.'"
After a few hours Monday, sheriff's deputies transitioned the search to a recovery operation rather than a rescue.
"We saw the commotion," said Dean Pierce, who was boating nearby and said he called the Coast Guard.
"I saw the debris, ice-chest, stuff floating down the river. A guy was yelling a vessel had gone down," Pierce said.
The Clark County Sheriff's Marine Patrol is still talking to family and investigating what happened, but a spokesman said the boy was not wearing a life jacket.
Boaters familiar with the area describe that part of the Columbia as especially treacherous.
"It's pretty fast current through there and really narrows down," said Pierce.
Several agencies responded to help search for the boy. A Portland Fire and Rescue dive team also assembled at Chinook Landing on the Oregon side of the river.
But a sheriff's spokesman said the search had been suspended as of 3 p.m. Monday. Deputies planned to perform a second search Tuesday.
Authorities said the family comes from Sedro-Wooley, WA.
Anyone who sees the child or has information that could be helpful to the search is asked to call the Coast Guard Sector Columbia River command center at 503-861-6211.
Copyright 2012 KPTV (Meredith Corporation.) All rights reserved.
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