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Tribal deputy swept to sea (by the roaring waters of the Klamath River)
A Yurok tribal police officer was washed into the ocean by the roaring waters of the Klamath River after his boat failed to start Monday afternoon.
Thorn McCovey, 26, was rescued by volunteers on a U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary boat, which found him hypothermic but alive an hour after the boat sank in the Pacific Ocean.
Tribal Public Safety Office Chief Mike Ross said McCovey was checking on some fishermen at the mouth of the swollen river. When he pushed the jet boat off shore -- to avoid sucking gravel into the jet -- the boat failed to start, Ross said.
The heavy springtime flow swept him into the ocean, where the boat capsized around 1:50 p.m., just after McCovey contacted the police department. Ross and others gathered at an overlook several hundred feet above the river, scanning the cold and increasingly choppy Pacific for signs of McCovey.
Ross said the crowd could hear the officer yelling, but couldn't see him.
It was the volunteer Coast Guard Auxiliary boat piloted by Jeff Corning and staffed by Dennis Melton and James Rumble out of Crescent City -- 12 miles north of the river mouth -- that eventually found McCovey, drifting with the current and clinging to a fender.
A Coast Guard helicopter then hoisted McCovey off the boat and flew him to an RV park where an ambulance was waiting to take the officer to Sutter Coast Hospital in Crescent City. Ross reported that McCovey is in good condition.
"It's a miracle," Ross said. "He made it. That's all I can say."
Ross said the boat that sank was less than three years old and there was no reason to believe it would quit like it did. Ross credited McCovey's survival with being in good physical condition.
The Coast Guard Auxiliary is a civilian volunteer force. The small boat out of Crescent City is one of only three such units in the nation, and the only one operating on the ocean on a full-time basis.
Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:14 AM Pacific
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