Missing jet skier recalls hours before rescue

Credit: Erica Heartquist/KGW

Caitrin Shough is recovering from painful injuries in the hospital.


by Evan Sernoffsky and KGW.com Staff


Posted on September 24, 2012 at 3:38 PM

Updated Tuesday, Sep 25 at 3:53 PM

PORTLAND – A Portland woman who was reported missing after her jet ski got stuck Saturday said she had to swim across the Columbia River and walk for hours before she was found on Interstate 84 Sunday morning.

Caitrin Shough said she was jet skiing with her husband Kenneth when she got stuck on a sandbar. She said she called him and asked him to come back for her, but he couldn't find her. When it started getting dark she decided to swim to shore.

"It didn't look that far to me," she said. "Apparently, it's really far."

Kenneth reported to authorities just before 9 p.m. that his wife was missing and crews started a search-and-rescue operation involving several volunteers, sheriffs deputies, fire departments, and the U.S. Coast Guard.

Caitrin had wrapped her cell phone in her hair to keep it dry as she swam, but it was dead by the time she reached the shore. She said she saw rescue crews looking for her, but they didn't see her.

"I saw helicopters flying around and I figured someone was probably looking for me, so I stayed on the shore and I was waving," she said. "The helicopters never came near me."

Caitrin’s jet ski was found just before 1 a.m. beached at Reed Island in the Columbia River, said Lt. Mark Matsushima with Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office.

Meanwhile, she decided to walk to the nearby freeway, which took several hours. She said by the time she got to the roadside she had to lick the dew off of the grass to stay hydrated.

"I was finally on I-84, trying to flag people down in nothing but a life vest and a skirt, and a bikini bottom and aqua socks," she said. "So I probably looked like a crazy person out on the side of the road."

At about 5 a.m., a police officer found her near milepost 20 on Interstate 84, suffering from the onset of hypothermia and was taken in an ambulance to a nearby hospital, Matsushima said. She was treated and released Sunday.


KGW Reporter Erica Heartquist contributed to this report.