MILWAUKIE, Ore. (KOIN) — The heat always brings people to area waters to cool off. But there is always a danger when people get in the water, as recent drownings underscored.

“It’s a beautiful river and we love that people enjoy it,” Gresham Fire Captain Travis Soles told KOIN 6 News. “But we just have to be really cautious around it because it has claimed a lot of lives and nearly claimed others.”

“As we are increasingly seeing these hot, long stretches of weather, more and more people are coming to the river and the risk of drowning (simply because of the number of people) is elevated,” Corbett Fire’s Jasmine Zimmer-Stucky said.

The fire departments in Corbett and Gresham have new equipment this year that helps them in a variety of ways.

New sonar technology, Aquaeye, is helping rescue crews locate people under water. Corbett Fire is the only agency in the area to have this device and they said it’s already helping them respond to a growing number of water rescues.

In the past 2 days there have been 3 water rescues on the Sandy River. On Friday, a man was pulled from the Sandy River at Dabney State Park after he’d been down for 40 minutes. He later died.

Aquaeye was used in that search.

Aquaeye is a handheld sonar device used by Corbett Fire in water rescues, July 30, 2022 (KOIN)
Aquaeye is a handheld sonar device used by Corbett Fire in water rescues, July 30, 2022 (KOIN)

“The Aquaeye is a handheld sonar device. It uses ultrasound and artificial intelligence technologies and it identifies human bodies underwater,” said Jasmine Zimmer-Stucky with Corbett Fire. “It’s totally submersible. It has a trigger and the trigger then sends out the ultrasonic waves and it detects bodies under the water in a way that rescue divers often can’t see.”

Gresham Fire also gained a helpful tool this year — a new watercraft jetski.

“But it’s a little different than what people would normally think of as a jet ski, because it’s made of aluminum instead of fiberglass,” Soles said. “And it’s specifically designed to be able to get into very tight areas that we normally weren’t able to get to.”

He added the rescue craft shortened their response time up in the area around Oxbow Park “and allowed us to access areas that we just weren’t able to access.”

Gresham's Rescue Craft 75, July 2022 (Gresham FD)
Gresham’s Rescue Craft 75, July 2022 (Gresham FD)

It’s true, the temperatures are hot. But the waters are still cold.

“They’re fairly cold, they’re swift, there are steep drop offs,” Zimmer-Stucky said. “And the best way that everyone can have a great time on the river – and not call 911- is to wear a life jacket.”

Despite all the new technology and increased rescue abilities, the Gresham fire captain told KOIN 6 News it is still on everyone to help keep the waters safe this summer.