At 9:55 am, the crew of Portland Fire Station 21 (Eastbank/Hawthorne) was performing maintenance on the Eldon Trinity rescue boat, which is moored at the dock just below the station next to the Eastbank Esplanade.
Their work was interrupted when a person began yelling from the top of the Hawthorne Bridge above them that someone had just jumped off the bridge. Firefighters scanned the water below where the person was pointing and saw a man splashing in the water and moving quickly away with the river’s current.
The crew immediately started the engines and untied the boat from the dock. By the time they maneuvered the boat away from the dock, the man had moved about 200 yards down river.
Firefighters on the Station 21 Eldon Trinity rescue boat called for additional resources from the other side of the river. Within seconds, firefighters from Portland Fire Station 1 (Old Town) responded from the west side of the Willamette River with two rescue ski doos.
Within a minute or two, crews were next the man in the river yelling for help. The Eldon Trinity lowered the bow ramp in front of the boat, enabling firefighters to reach down into the water and slide the man on board.
In water rescues, people often have traumatic injuries to their limbs, back, and neck. The ability to ease patients into the boat without further exacerbating their injuries is essential. The front loading ramp also accommodates four wheel rescue vehicles which can be transported on the boat for rescues in remote areas of the Columbia River.
The 45-year-old man was treated by Portland firefighter/paramedics and transported to a nearby hospital with non-life threatening injuries.
"This is one of the fastest water rescues I have ever seen," said Portland Fire Battalion Chief Tom Williams. "Firefighters who were in the right place at the right time were able to mobilize their resources and rescue this man in minutes."
Portland Fire urges individuals who are depressed or suicidal, or think someone you know is, to seek help from available resources. Contact the Suicide Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) for free, confidential crisis intervention and referral services.