Girl’s raft flips on Sandy River, dad rushes in; both die

Multnomah County

Father went in to save his daughter, officials said

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A 7-year-old girl whose raft overturned on the Sandy River and her father who rushed in to save her both died despite efforts from emergency rescuers Tuesday night.

The first call came in to emergency responders at 8:23 p.m., said Chris Liedle, the communications director for the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office. “Deputies, first responders, Gresham firefighters flooded the area and attempted to search for the two missing swimmers” near the Stark Street Bridge downstream of Dabney State Park outside of Troutdale.

The father was found first and pulled from the water, he said.

“Within about 10 minutes of receiving the first 911 call, deputies were able to locate an adult male, who was unconscious,” said Liedle. Deputies performed CPR until medics arrived, and he was taken to the hospital.

Emergency responders pulled a man from the Sandy River at Dabney State Park but the search for a missing child continues, July 20, 2021 (KOIN)

About 30 minutes later, officials said they found the child in the Sandy River. Leidle said deputies learned the girl was floating down the river when her raft overturned.

“Her dad attempted to rescue her and unfortunately both did not resurface and family and friends were unable to find him and the girl,” he said.

Around 9:40 pm., he said, deputies found the girl, performed CPR and rushed her to the hospital.

Both the father and daughter were pronounced dead at the hospital, officials said later. They were later identified as 42-year-old Erislandy Fernandez-Sanchez and 7-year-old Jenni Fernandez-Suarez.

“It’s believed that neither of them were wearing life jackets,” Liedle said. “We cannot stress enough that life jackets save lives. They may not be cool. They are available for free at the major swimming areas.”

He added it’s the 3rd major water rescue call in recent weeks in this area, and the second at Dabney State Park this month.

“We considered the Sandy River as one of the most dangerous rivers,” he said. “It’s glacial runoff, primarily coming from Mount Hood, it’s cold, fast and has a rocky bottom.”

Specially trained volunteers with Trauma Intervention Program responded and provided emotional aid, support and resources to the victim’s family, officials said.

“This weighs heavy on all of us. Losing a child, let alone two family members in a moment, is unimaginable. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family during this extremely challenging time,” Sheriff Mike Reese said. “Since the beginning of July, we have responded to four drownings on the Sandy River. We sincerely need your help to be safe this summer. We urge everyone in or near the water to wear a life jacket and swim at a park where a lifeguard is present.”

Multnomah County offers resource guides for swimming safely in rivers, lakes and pools. Click here to learn more about staying safe in the water.

(KOIN)

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