August 20, 2012
At 8:38 pm, Portland Fire was dispatched to an initial report of an explosion on a skiboat possibly carrying up to (7) souls onboard on the Willamette River, just south of the Sellwood Bridge near Waverly Marina.
Callers from shore reported seeing fire and an explosion just before the vessel began sinking. This prompted a large response including:
(1) Fireboat from Station 6
(1) Rescue Boat from Station 21
(2) Rescue Craft from Station 1 (these are specially outfitted personal watercraft carrying an operator and a rescue swimmer)
LAND BASED RESPONDERS
(2) Fire Engines
(2) Chief Officers
Several passengers clung to the exterior of the boat while others were assisted by nearby boats. Rescue Boat 21 was the first PF&R water responder to reach the incident and reported that there was no active fire and all passengers were reported as being accounted for. After RB21 assisted with rescuing the swimmers and transferring them to shore, they were able to determine that the boats stern was sitting on the bottom, and that there were no environmental hazards such as leaking fluids present. All five passengers aboard the boat had stated they had no injuries and declined medical attention.
It was determined that there was no fire or explosion. The boat driver stated that a large wake from another boat overwhelmed the skiboat causing it to sink. Salvage and recovery work will be performed by the boat owner, per the US Coast Guard.
Station 21 is one of PF&R's newest fire stations located at the east end of the Hawthorne Bridge along the East Bank Esplanade. In addition to housing a fire engine, also quartered there is Rescue Boat 21. Station 21 was put in service to improve response times on the Willamette River south of the Downtown core area, including emergencies near the Sellwood Bridge.