DEPOE BAY — A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter from Newport plucked six tourists from a wave-swept rock at Fogarty Creek State Park on Saturday.
Depoe Bay firefighters and U.S. Coast Guard personnel from Station Depoe Bay were called out at 1:30 p.m., arriving amid a scene of chaos and cries for help from a group of young men and women who had scaled a large rock formation. The incoming rush of high tide quickly trapped them as 20-foot waves boomed against the jagged boulder.
Two other people tried to make it to shore from the rock before help arrived. A man was able to make it safely to the beach, but a young woman who was reportedly caught in the receding tide nearly drowned and was pulled unconscious from the water.
Revived by a nurse who was vacationing at the scene, she was carried by litter to an ambulance on Highway 101 and transported to Samaritan North Lincoln Hospital in Lincoln City.
The dramatic aerial rescue, coming eight days after U.S. Coast Guard brass announced they would close the Newport USCG air facility, was witnessed by hundreds of people who lined the rugged cliffs and highway. Spontaneous applause erupted from the crowd as the last victim, in the arms of a USCG swimmer, was gently lowered to the beach by the hovering chopper.
Bill Williams, assistant fire chief for the Depoe Bay Fire District, credited the helicopter crew for saving six lives.
“Our rescue swimmers were beaten back, and there was no way they could have pulled them off the rock without the helicopter,” he said. “We were lucky to have close air support, in this case. The last person was rescued 15 minutes before the peak of high tide when the waves would have crested the rock.”
For the full story on the rescue, watch for the Oct. 15 edition of the News-Times.