Coast Guard Rescue Swimmer Makes Incredible Save After Huge Wave (Updated)

This video shows how the mouth of the Columbia River can be a very nasty place and how that doesn’t stop the Coast Guard from saving the day.

byOliver Parken, Tyler Rogoway|
Coast Guard Rescue Columbia River capsize


The mouth of the Columbia River can be an extremely treacherous place for mariners. The recent videos posted by the U.S. Coast Guard are a case in point. In it, we see just how absurdly brave Coasties can be – notably those hardened by the at times very hostile seas off the Pacific Northwest. This is especially true of one rescue swimmer who faced down a huge, sudden wave, en route to his target, and went on to still make the save.

The mouth of the Columbia River separates the states of Washington and Oregon. It’s a body of water notorious for its extremely powerful currents that can become too difficult for even the most experienced sailors to navigate. 

While conducting a routine training mission from their base in nearby Astoria, two USCG aircrews aboard MH-60T Jayhawk helicopters received a distress call from the skipper of the private vessel Sandpiper. After alerting watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector Columbia River, who ordered the launch of the incredibly capable 47-foot motor lifeboats from USCG Station Cape Disappointment, aircrews quickly found the Sandpiper being thrashed-about by large waves.

In the video linked above, Sandpiper is seen next to a USCG Motor Lifeboat. With the waves as strong as they were, rescue from the lifeboat was deemed too dangerous, so a rescue swimmer was dropped from the Jayhawk into the storm-punished waters below.

In the additional video, we can see the rescue swimmer battling the swells as they approach Sandpiper. The Coast Guard notes that the intention here was to have Sandpiper’s captain also enter the water for the rescue to be performed. 

At least that was the plan.

Suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, an absolutely huge and fast-moving wave comes barreling toward the boat and the swimmer, who was still between his drop point and the boat in peril. You can see the ‘oh shit’ moment as the rescue swimmer stops, sees the wave, and prepares to ride it out. An instant later it engulfs the rescue swimmer and tosses the Sandpiper like a toy, capsizing it with its captain still aboard.

The scene looked like a catastrophe.

The moment of impact. Credit: USCG

Lo and behold, and somewhat astonishingly, the rescue swimmer was still able to safely recover the individual after the wave passed. Lifted aboard USCG MH-60T ‘6009,’ the individual was then flown to Coast Guard Air Station Astoria where emergency medical services were waiting. At this time, we do not know the condition of the rescued individual, but they were carried off the helicopter without a stretcher. 

All in all, the videos go to show just how important the work of the USCG really is, and underscore the bravery and persistence demonstrated by USCG personnel in risking their own lives every day in order to save others. 

Well done!


This story has gotten way weirder. It turns out, the man that was rescued stole the boat after leaving a dead fish on the front porch of the famed house in Astoria that was used in the '80s smash hit Goonies.

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Police identified the alleged dead-fish deliverer as 35-year-old Jericho Lobonte of Victoria, B.C.

KGW, a local NBC affiliate in Portland, Oregon, reported that, following the rescue, Lobonte was released from medical care before it was understood he was wanted by police, but was later arrested in nearby Seaside, Oregon.

The fact that the man put other lives at direct risk due to his failed escape antics isn't likely to help him in the eyes of the law.

We will update this post over the next 24 hours with any new information about this bizarre story.