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Woodburn man drowns in Willamette River near Wheatland Ferry landing

Deputies said Alfredo Perez-Mendez, 22, died after going underwater Thursday at Willamette Mission State Park.
Credit: Артем Константинов - stock.adobe.com

GERVAIS, Ore. — A Woodburn man drowned in the Willamette River near the Wheatland Ferry landing Thursday evening, according to the Yamhill County Sheriff's Office (YCSO). 

Deputies said Alfredo Perez-Mendez, 22, was found roughly 13 feet underwater at the bottom of the river near the Willamette Mission State Park boat ramp. 

The sheriff's office received a 911 around 5:20 p.m. after Perez-Mendez went underwater and failed to resurface. Due to a language barrier, the dispatcher tried to transfer the call to someone who could translate, but the caller hung up during the transfer and didn't answer multiple calls back. 

The sheriff's office notified a YCSO patrol boat and a marine safety officer was able to get in touch with the caller and find them near the Willamette Mission boat ramp, located just north of the Wheatland Ferry landing. 

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At that point, Perez-Mendez had been underwater for roughly 15 minutes, deputies said. 

The marine safety officer called for additional resources, and authorities used the patrol boat to find Perez-Mendez in the river. With help from two good Samaritans, authorities used a rope to pull him out of the water and into the boat. 

The sheriff's office said one of the rescuers started CPR on the boat as they waited for medics to arrive, but Perez-Mendez did not survive. 

Perez-Mendez' family, who live in Guatamala, were notified of his death.

The sheriff's office warned that the Willamette River has a strong current, and the shoreline along Willamette Mission State Park has a steep drop-off where the river depth quickly increases from about 5 feet to 12 feet.