Guide in capsized boat says nobody saw wave

PORTLAND, Ore. — A fishing guide whose boat capsized last week, leaving one man dead, said he was headed back to shore because of Coast Guard warnings about rough going at the notorious Columbia River Bar.

The guide, Tyler Courtney of Oregon City, took a party of five out Friday for what started as a good day for fishing, The Oregonian reported.

Marine weather forecasts showed no restrictions, the weather was sunny, and the river was a bit choppy — nothing, Courtney said, he hadn’t seen before.

But by 8:30 a.m., the Coast Guard said conditions were worsening, the seas were rising, and it would close the bar, where hundreds have died in wrecks.

Ten to 15 minutes from shore, Courtney said, a swell hit the 25-foot boat, water slammed the windshield, and the vessel sank immediately.

“It happened so instantaneously,” Courtney said. “Nobody saw it coming.”

He said his life jacket got trapped underneath the windshield, and he had to wiggle out of it to swim back up. People aboard a boat following close behind scooped up five survivors, including Courtney.

Later, the Coast Guard found Craig Robert Biggs of West Linn, who had been wearing his life jacket, face down and tangled in fishing equipment.

The bar is where the Columbia and the Pacific Ocean meet in a shallow crossing so treacherous that special pilots transfer aboard seafaring vessels for the passage.

Estimates are that 2,000 shipwrecks in the past three centuries have taken 700 lives.

“They call it the graveyard,” Petty Officer 1st Class David Mosley said.

The Coast Guard is investigating the incident, he said.

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Information from: The Oregonian, http://www.oregonlive.com

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