A man who led police on a car chase before driving a truck into the Columbia River in December was sentenced Wednesday to more than 1 1/2 years in prison.
Timofey Erofeeff, 28, of Scotts Mills, was spotted jiggling locks on two vessels, including the Zephyr, a boat the docked at North Tongue Point. Ron MicJan, who was sleeping in the Zephyr at the time, reported the incident to Astoria police, but Erofeeff left by the time officers arrived. Officers returned about an hour later when Erofeeff was spotted again.
MicJan told police he wanted to pursue charges against Erofeeff, who was on post-prison supervision for an unlawful use of a motor vehicle conviction in Deschutes County. Police contacted Erofeeff’s probation officer, who advised them that Erofeeff had recently been arrested for burglary in Multnomah County and had not been checking in with Deschutes County Parole and Probation.
Officer Kevin Berry then approached Erofeeff as he sat in the driver’s seat of a red Ford F-150, according to court records. Erofeeff peered into the driver’s side window, shifted the truck into gear and sped off.
Erofeeff turned onto a closed pier and started to accelerate. He launched the truck off the pier at an estimated 45 mph.
When officers reached the end of the pier, Erofeeff had exited the truck and began swimming north toward an island about 1,000 feet away. As the truck was sinking, debris was floating around and a large gas slick appeared at the water’s surface.
After swimming about 600 feet in the icy water, he began struggling and eventually returned to the dock as he was tossed a life jacket and flotation ring.
Employees from nearby shipwright WCT Marine & Construction Inc. pulled him out of the water and into a skiff before taking him to shore about 20 minutes after he entered the frigid water. He was taken to Columbia Memorial Hospital in Astoria and treated for hypothermia and minor injuries.
When asked why he fled from police, Erofeeff said he thought to himself, “‘I’m not getting arrested today,’” according to court records.
WTC Marine located the sunken truck and pulled it from the river the next day with a crane. Deputy District Attorney Dawn Buzzard said Wednesday that WTC Marine has been reimbursed for all or most of the cost of the cleanup through a grant.
Erofeeff was indicted on charges of offensive littering, first-degree burglary, attempt to elude police with a vehicle, reckless driving, interfering with a peace officer, third-degree escape and second-degree criminal trespass. A charge of driving under the influence of intoxicants — for methamphetamine — was later added to the indictment.
“Not to make light of it,” said a half-smiling retired Circuit Court Judge Rick Knapp, who spent Wednesday filling in for Judge Dawn McIntosh at the Clatsop County Courthouse, “but is the offensive littering from him driving into the water?”
Buzzard confirmed that it was.
Erofeeff eventually agreed to a plea deal. He entered an Alford plea — meaning he asserts innocence but recognizes prosecutors may have sufficient evidence for a conviction — to offensive littering, third-degree escape, attempting to elude a police officer and attempt to commit a class A felony.
He was sentenced to more than 1 1/2 years in prison, which will run concurrently with a 3 1/2- year prison sentence he is serving from two first-degree burglary convictions in Clackamas County.
“This has been a drawn-out plea negotiation involving multiple counties,” said Kris Kaino, Erofeeff’s court-appointed attorney.
Erofeeff appeared at Wednesday’s sentencing hearing via phone from the Coffee Creek Correctional Facility in Wilsonville and thanked those who pulled him and the truck from the river. “I just want to apologize for any, you know, trouble or burden I may have caused,” he said.
Prior to his arrest, Erofeeff told officers he had permission from the Coast Guard to be in the area. He reiterated that position Wednesday,
“It was kind of a shaky situation and a misunderstanding,” Erofeeff said. “I was never trying to pollute anything. I just want to move on with my life.”
Erofeeff will forfeit the truck, which sustained severe damage. Toward the end of the hearing, and before that decision was made, Erofeeff asked Knapp if it would be possible for him to collect the remains of the truck.
“Yeah, good luck with that,” Knapp said.