LINCOLN CITY — North Lincoln Fire & Rescue personnel worked with bystanders to rescue a naked and inebriated man from the ocean just after 3 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 3, near Northwest 70th Street and Logan Road in Lincoln City.
What started as an unknown medical call around 2:50 p.m. soon turned into a water rescue as a man reported to be under the influence of multiple intoxicants had stripped off his clothing and began walking in and out of the waves.
Lincoln City Police officers were first on the scene and soon requested that the fire department prepare its water rescue team. Officers tried to prevent anyone from going out to retrieve the man before that rescue team had arrived.
“People were yelling at him and trying to get him to come back in and get out of there, and he was hit by a log at one point in time and pinned under it for a bit,” said NLFR Interim Chief Rob Dahlman. “But he just kept running into the surf. Waves would crash around him and go back out, and he would chase them back out.”
Not long after the water rescue team arrived, and as its members were still getting equipped and formulating a plan, a group of three bystanders went to retrieve the man and were soon joined by four members of NLFR in life jackets. As the two groups approached, the man resisted their attempts at rescue.
“The guy was just out of control and fighting them the entire time,” Dahlman said. “It was challenging — challenging surf conditions, and the guy was fighting with them. The whole thing was about 20 minutes, and then he was in the back of an ambulance and headed for the hospital.”
Dahlman said the man was taken to the hospital afterward and, other than confirming the man’s strange behavior, he said could not comment on the man’s medical status.
One of the bystanders who went to retrieve the man was Steven Moore, who lives nearby and came to investigate after hearing on his police scanner that a water rescue was underway.
“When he saw all of us going out there, he started walking towards the waves, like really far out as they were receding,” Moore said. “He was walking out towards the ocean and screaming at it, and it had gone out really far. We decided that’d have to be the time or he was going to be taken in.”
Moore said he and two other bystanders ran out to grab the man, who resisted and knocked them down. The man then grabbed Moore’s hair as waves began to wash over them, but the NLFR team arrived, and Moore was able to break free. Battling both the man and the waves, the seven rescuers eventually managed to get the man back to safety.
“We didn’t even think because he just kept walking farther and farther out. He’d almost gotten to the reef. I knew where it was because I’m a local, and he was all the way out there,” Moore said.
The National Weather Service has been issuing ongoing high surf advisories for the area since Friday and reported waves from 20-22 feet around the time of the rescue. A wind advisory issued Friday expired the night before, but the weather service stated it would have been “breezy” at the time, with winds around 30-40 miles per hour.
“The surf conditions were atrocious,” Dahlman said. “There were 20 or 30-foot waves breaking on the beach and sweeping up against the banks and the rip rap that protects the houses.”
While the situation worked out favorably in this case, Dahlman said bystander involvement in incidents like these is always a cause of concern for trained rescuers like him and his team.
“I’ve been here in Lincoln City for over 30 years, and I’ve been in lots of water rescues,” Dahlman said. “I’ve been to the water rescues where a well-meaning bystander has gone into the water to try and rescue somebody and didn’t come out and drowned.”
Dahlman said he would never fault a well-meaning person for trying to assist someone in a dangerous situation, but stressed that there is no competing with people equipped with the proper training and safety equipment.
“We don’t endorse anyone to try that. We try to keep people back and let us do our jobs,” Dahlman said.
Dahlman added that the Oregon coast can be especially dangerous, noting that most accidents involve visitors to the area who don’t expect the rapidly changing conditions common to the area, such as sneaker waves.
The man was not identified by name or as a local or visitor to the area.