Jet ski flips; father, son end up in Willamette River with sea l - KPTV - FOX 12

Jet ski flips; father, son end up in Willamette River with sea lion

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A father and son got much more than they bargained for over the weekend when they got too close to a sea lion on the Willamette River and ended up swimming with it. 

Oregon City fisherman Sean White said he was at Jon Storm park on the dock near his boat when he heard a splash and then some yelling Saturday evening.

"I turned around and looked and saw a kid, a jet ski and an adult flip over,” White said.

He knew it instantly wasn’t good. White said he’d spotted the pair earlier that afternoon zipping up and down the river on a jet ski following sea lions around as they swam through the water. 

He said the pair was less than five feet away from one of the sea lions when it flipped over.  

"The one they were watching was eating,” White said. “He had a salmon in his mouth.”

White said he quickly got his boat ready and rushed to their aid. Another fishing boat was able to get there first and pull the two out of the water. He said both were wearing life jackets. 

"The kid was shaken up. The dad was a little shaken up, but they were fine,” White said, adding that deputies and medics arrived shortly after. 

He think it could have gone much worse.

"I grew up on this river and, the undertow -- and this river — is just horrible,” White said. "I mean, it doesn't really matter if you have a life jacket on or not. If you get caught by an undertow, you're going to the bottom.”

Wildlife experts said sea lions can be just as unpredictable. Biologists said about 20 are currently living in the stretch of the river from the Willamette Falls to the Abernethy Bridge, but they’ve recorded up to 30 of the mammals in the past.

It’s illegal to harass sea lions and getting too close can be dangerous. 

"Getting real close to sea lions when they were eating, I think that was kind of not smart,” White said. 

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