Man's body recovered from river at Gladstone park - KPTV - FOX 12

Deputies identify man found in river at Gladstone park

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GLADSTONE, OR (KPTV) -

Investigators have identified the man whose body was found in the Willamette River at a Gladstone park Thursday.

Deputies said Thomas Ermini, 53, of Milwaukie, was with Sandra Gracie, 46, of Milwaukie, when their pickup got stuck on a sandbar at Meldrum Bar Park. They were stranded when the tide came in, covering part of the sandbar with water.

Fishermen pulled Gracie out of the water, but Ermini went under.

Clackamas County deputies said it started shortly after 5 p.m. Wednesday. Witnesses said the man tried to drive back to shore, but the truck started floating and began to sink.

"It was like instantly, as soon as it started, got to the doors, it just went down," said Rocky Bebb, who was visiting the park when he spotted the car.

Bebb said the man and woman got out of the truck with their dogs and Ermini tried to swim to land.

"He was probably 15 feet away from the shore and his dog was standing there barking at him and the guy turned around and started swimming back this way (toward the sandbar) and he started freaking out, started screaming 'Help' and everything," he said.

Jason Jennings and two friends were returning from their fishing trip when they were flagged down.

"We could barely just see her arm splashing water. Her head wasn't even above water by the time we got to her," he said. "Had we been any later, we might not have found her."

Rescue crews continued searching for the man in the water, but, shortly after 6:30 p.m., their mission switched from a rescue operation into one focused on recovering the man's body. They called off the search overnight, then resumed Thursday and found the man after about two hours.

Deputies said the man was found in about 10 to 12 feet of water, and was between 50 and 100 feet away from where he was last seen alive.

"This tragedy could have been much worse if it had not been for the quick action and willingness to help from the three fishermen," Deputy Marcus Mendoza said in a press release.

Gracie was taken to the hospital to be treated for signs of hypothermia.

The couple had two chocolate labs with them. One was found, but the other would not let law enforcement or bystanders catch it.

On Thursday morning, it appeared to be stuck on a sandbar, but then swam to a piece of nearby land.

The couple's truck remains missing.

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