A 19-year-old Hammond man drowned in the Nehalem River Monday afternoon.

Derek Clark had gone to Spruce Run County Park with his friends to fish for crawdads. But when he entered the river to set out bait cans, the current swept him downriver.

The Clatsop County Sheriff’s deputies and underwater recovery team responded to the scene just before 5 p.m. Prior to their response, Clark’s friends Joel Balderas, 21, and Kevin Olvera, 20, both of Cannon Beach, had attempted to rescue Clark. But they “were unable to hold (Clark) above the surface of the water and had to return to shore to avoid the possibility of drowning themselves,” a press release from the sheriff read.

“They lost sight of Derek and went to a nearby residence to call for help.”

The Clatsop County Sheriff’s Underwater Recovery Team recovered Clark in 6 feet of water near the same location that the friends had last seen him. He died of an apparent accidental drowning. The Sheriff’s office said alcohol was not a factor.

The underwater recovery team is comprised of specially trained divers and surface support personnel. They have specialized equipment that enables them to search underwater for different items, including drowning victims.

The Clatsop County Sheriff’s Office would like to remind citizens that at this time of the year, rivers and streams have very high water levels and are running very swift and cold from spring rains and winter snow melt.

“We would also like to remind citizens to use caution and wear proper protective and flotation equipment when working or recreating around lakes, streams, and rivers,” the press release stated.

The Sheriff’s Office was assisted by the Elsie-Vinemaple Rural Fire Protection District, the Oregon State Police and nearby residents of the Lower Nehalem Valley area.

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