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Rule 1 / Case 8

Updated: Feb 12, 2022

Always Wear Your PFD (Lifejacket)

Unidentified 19-year-old Tillamook woman

May 3rd, 2020 - Netarts Bay, Tillamook County, Oregon

The Tillamook County Sheriff’s Office reported that an unidentified 19-year-old Tillamook woman drowned after her kayak capsized in Netarts Bay and she was swept over the bar and out to sea by the current. The average ocean temperature in the area is approximately 50F (10C) in May.

The initial report for a kayaker in distress came in at about 1:25 p.m. Sunday. Sheriff's Deputies, the U.S. Coast Guard, and Netarts Oceanside Fire participated in the search. Her kayak and life jacket were discovered on the shoreline of Netarts Spit at about 2:20 pm, indicating that she wasn't wearing the PFD when she capsized. Her body was recovered around 3:10 pm.

Location and Accident Details:

Netarts Bay, the seventh largest bay in Oregon, is located on the state's northern coast. It's approximately 5 miles long by 1.5 miles wide. On the ebb tide, approximately 33 million cubic feet of water flows out of the bay and into the Pacific Ocean through a westward curving channel at the north end of the bay. This exit channel is about 1000 yards long and 350-750 feet wide, with a maximum depth in mid-channel of 18 feet. The current is strong, and the mouth of the bay, where the current meets the ocean, is well-known for very rough conditions on the ebb tide. It can be a death-trap for small human-powered craft like kayaks.

As you can see in the satellite photo above, large breakers can occur over a 500+ yard area at the mouth. A kayaker who gets caught by the ebb tide will be carried out into increasingly rough water. This danger isn't limited to Netarts Bay, but rather is a common hazard at inlets and river mouths all over the world.

On the day of the accident, high tide was 5.5 feet at 10am. At that point the current began to reverse and flow out of the bay. At some point, her kayak was caught in the current, swept out of the bay and into the channel, where she was reported in trouble at 1:25pm. Roughly an hour later, her kayak and PFD were found washed up on the spit of land that separates the bay from the ocean.

Major Contributing Factors

  • No PFD (Lifejacket)

  • Not Dressed For Water Temperature

  • Unable To Recover From Capsize

  • Unable to Call For Help

  • Unaware of Hazard

  • Paddling Solo

Bonus Video: To learn more about this type of boating hazard, watch this video:

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