(Update: Torkelson dies at St. Charles Bend)
BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) – A 56-year-old Bend man died Friday at St. Charles Bend of injuries suffered on a Deschutes River floating excursion Thursday when he apparently was pulled underwater in the middle channel of the Bend Whitewater Park, police said.
Joseph Clarence Torkelson “died from the injuries he endured from this incident,” police said early Friday evening.
Police and fire medics were dispatched around 2:17 p.m. Thursday to a water rescue and report of a person in the river near McKay Park and the Bend Whitewater Park, police Communications Manager Sheila Miller said Thursday.
Torkelson apparently was floating the river with a roommate, putting into the river upstream in Bend, Miller said
“Instead of staying to the left to ride through the gentle rapids at Colorado Avenue, Torkelson somehow ended up on the wrong side of the buoys” and was pulled underwater in the area of the rapids of the Whitewater Park’s middle channel, police said. “Shortly thereafter, Torkelson was found and pulled from the river.”
A 911 caller from the Colorado Avenue Footbridge reported seeing a man underwater and directing a kayaker to him near the footbridge, in the Whitewater Park’s middle channel, upstream from the surfing wave. The kayaker went under the bridge and removed Torkelson from the river.
Within three minutes, Miller said, bystanders had pulled him from the water, and police and fire personnel conducted CPR on Torkelson for more than 10 minutes. Lt. Mike Landolt said he had no pulse when he was rushed by ambulance to St. Charles Bend.
Police launched a drone in the area to look for any other victims, as well as any boats, kayaks or floats. No other people or abandoned watercraft were found, Miller said
Many people were floating the river Thursday on another day of hot temperatures, with most apparently unaware of what had transpired nearby.
Miller said the Colorado Avenue Bridge was closed for about a half-hour due to the water rescue operation, reopening shortly after 3 p.m.
Bend Park and Rec Board member Ariel Mendez said Friday while it’s too early to understand just what happened, everyone needs to use caution while floating the river.
“I’ve seen the river described in promotional materials as a ‘playground,’ and I don’t think that’s the right way to describe the river,” Mendez said. “The Deschutes River is essentially a wild river that poses more risk than a playground.”
“There’s always going to be some inherent risk at getting in the water,” he added. “There are steps you can take to make your experience safer, things like wear a PFD, don’t drink alcohol, use a high-quality inner tube. One of the rentals is a great option. “
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