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Treacherous Waters

Editorial for May 22, 2008

On Tuesday, May 6, three Yakama Tribal fishermen set out in a boat for what should have been a routine trip to check on their fishing nets on the Columbia River.

The men were due back on May 7, but did not return. Winds of as much as 25 mph were reported on the river during that time.

Searchers soon found their overturned boat in the river near Stevenson. As of May 19, two of the three young men -- Gailen Espirito and Rommel Strom -- still have not been located. The body of James Peter Jr. was found west of the mouth of the Wind River near Carson.

Dozens of searchers have been looking for the three. They have used special nets to drag the bottom of the river along a 20-mile stretch and walked the banks on both sides searching for any sign. Until Monday, nothing had turned up.

We don't know what tragedy befell these men on the river, but we wish to offer our support and condolences to their families and friends.

A temporary search headquarters and makeshift kitchen has been set up at the Home Valley Park & Boat Launch. As many as 200 searchers have been involved, including members of the Skamania County Sheriff's Office and the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission. With so many searchers and other visitors coming to help and offer support, family members have been working to coordinate donations of food and other items necessary to help the effort.

A special bank account has been started at Riverview Community Bank in Stevenson to help searchers cover the costs of food and fuel for boats and generators. To donate to this account, contact Amy Price, assistant branch manager, at (509) 427-5603.

Further, anyone out along the river who notices any sign of the missing fishermen is asked to call the Fisheries Enforcement Office at 1-800-487-3474.

In recent days, prayers and religious services have been held along the edge of the Columbia River as the search continues. We too offer our prayers for the men.

We also want to express our appreciation for the searchers -- most of them volunteers -- helping with this difficult work.

The Columbia River may seem relatively tame, but its currents are treacherous and at times its waves can be daunting. This sad incident reminds us how powerful, dangerous, and unforgiving the river can be.

JB

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