A Coast Guard helicopter crew rescued a fisherman from the Columbia River Bar on Monday as his boat broke up in the shallows north of Clatsop Spit.

On Sunday night, Eric Johnson, the captain of the 38-foot fishing boat Theron, radioed that he lost steering while attempting to cross the bar. The currents carried his boat toward the breakers and shallows north of Clatsop Spit.

The Coast Guard broadcast the man’s situation to other mariners and launched a 47-foot motor lifeboat and a 52-foot motor lifeboat from Station Cape Disappointment.

Shortly after midnight Monday, the captain of the Theron reported his vessel grounded on Clatsop Spit, the engine room filling with water and his power failing from the flooding.

Shallow water prevented the Coast Guard boats from reaching him. The 47-footer grounded out several times while providing support and returned to Station Cape Disappointment for a damage assessment.

The Coast Guard launched a Jayhawk helicopter from Air Station Astoria to retrieve the captain. The air crew lowered a rescue swimmer, who treaded the surf to the Theron. The captain and swimmer were hoisted into the helicopter and taken to the air station in Warrenton. The captain required no medical attention.

The Coast Guard continues to monitor the breakup of the Theron, estimated to have 400 gallons of diesel and seven salmon on board. A minor sheen of oil emanated from the wreck.

Debris from the Theron washed up at Fort Stevens State Park at an area locally referred to as Social Security or Fishermen’s Beach. Rangers, park staff, the Coast Guard and members of the Sons of Beaches 4x4 club worked to monitor and clean up the debris.

They handled mostly bits and pieces of the boat, but also had to address some small to medium chunks of the hull.

“Anything that can be on a boat has come to shore, and will likely continue to come to shore over the next few days,” said Justin Parker, the park manager. “Our role is really to assist the Coast Guard and DEQ (Department of Environmental Quality) and other agencies that become the lead for any kind of cleanup, but we’re responsible for the debris.”

The state leases that particular stretch of beach from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Katie Frankowicz of The Astorian contributed to this report.

Edward Stratton is a reporter for The Astorian. Contact him at 971-704-1719 or estratton@dailyastorian.com.

(1) comment

Jennifer Nightingale

We are one of the regulars that pick up beach trash at Ft. Steven's River Beach. We noticed that the beach smelled like a fuel spill. We didn't know about the wrecked fishing boat. The "Son's of Beaches" were out in full force with chain saws and trailers and sweat and muscle power. There was a fuel sheen on the tide pools. Chunks of this old boat were beyond their reach. A dead harbor seal washed up. Did he consume too much fuel? The Sons of Beaches amaze me. These guys are all volunteer and they are so cheerful and good natured. One of them told me that this boat had no business being on the water. The wood was so full of rot. It's a lucky thing that the Captain was rescued. It's a lucky thing there are Sons of Beaches. What a sorry mess.

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