Man rescued from base of raging waterfall

STEVENSON, Wash. (AP) -- Sheriff's deputies and firefighters have rescued a man who was trapped in rushing water at the base of a southwestern Washington waterfall after his legs got caught in rocks.

The Skamania County sheriff's office said John Napierkowski, 19, was rescued Monday night in a pool near the bottom of Dougan Falls on the Washougal River.

Napierkowski had gone swimming with friends when his legs became trapped in big rocks at the bottom of the natural pool below the waterfall, Sheriff Dave Brown said Tuesday.

"The force of the water pushes you right into them," Brown said.

The sheriff's office received a call shortly after 8 p.m. that the Washougal man was trapped in chest-deep water in the popular swimming hole.

"The first thing we do is try to keep him above water," Brown said

Emergency crews tied ropes to the man, and also gave him a life jacket, Brown said. Then they gave him a harness and attached an additional rope.

"First responders then began pulling on the rope from upriver and were able to free Napierkowski," said a press release from the sheriff's office.

Napierkowski was taken to a hospital because he was trapped in the water for about an hour and was lethargic from the cold. Brown estimated the water temperature at 60 degrees or less.

"The water was putting a beat down on his body," Brown said.

The incident occurred about 30 miles east of the Portland, Oregon, area.

Napierkowski, who could not be immediately reached for comment, is not the first person to become trapped in the area below the falls. Four years ago, a 14-year-old boy from Wilsonville, Oregon, got his leg trapped between boulders in the river below Dougan Falls. The water in that case reached to the boy's nose before he was rescued.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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