An Aberdeen officer helped to save a distraught Hoquiam woman from the harbor after police say she jumped in near the 28th Street Boat Launch. Hoquiam Police Chief Jeff Myers said in a press release that it was reported on Saturday, July 20, 2019 at 10:30 PM, Hoquiam officers were dispatched to a water rescue in the area of the 28th Street Boat Launch along the Chehalis River.
Apparently a 28-year-old Hoquiam woman was distraught and had jumped into the water. The woman reportedly could not swim; she was close to the pier but could no longer be seen after the sound of a splash.
The three on-duty Hoquiam officers responded to the area in an attempt to locate the woman in the river, in the dark.
Upon arriving in the area, officers located a 29-year-old Hoquiam man who was attempting to report his girlfriend as the woman who had jumped into the river. The man pointed out the area the woman was last seen in the water.
As officers searched the area, Sgt. David Blundred heard the faint yelling of the victim from the area of the river to the west of the 28th Street Boat Launch. He requested the Hoquiam Fire Department responded, as well as the Coast Guard.
Three Aberdeen officers also responded to the scene to assist.
Officers following the sounds of the panicked voice and splashing sounds from the woman in order to determine a general location of her whereabouts in the water. Officers had to traverse a creek and run down the low-tide shoreline using their flashlights in the darkness toward the direction of the woman’s yells.
After running west on the mossy rocked shoreline for around 300-yards, officers were able to locate the woman in the water. She was about 30-yards off-shore and sounded panicked as she screamed for help while splashing and trying to stay afloat. The tide was also pulling her downstream out toward the harbor.
Officers attempted to calm the woman and coax her back to shore by floating on her back, but she went under the surface before emerging in a panic attempting to struggle, swim and stay afloat against the tide.
Officers directed the woman to some nearby wood pilings in the river where she was able to cling for life. The woman indicated she could not swim any further and was scared she was going to drown.
Aberdeen Officer Jared Berken was one of the APD officers who came to the scene to assist; Officer Berken indicated he was a strong swimmer and volunteered to enter the water to rescue the woman when it became clear she would not be able to hold onto the piling until the Coast Guard rescue boat arrived from Westport.
Officers were not able to reach the woman with a “rescue disk” flotation device because of the distance and her level of fatigue. It was clear the woman’s grip on the piling was lessening and he told officers she could not hold on any longer or swim anymore.
Officer Berken shed much of his police gear in order to swim out to the woman. Officer Berken spoke with her calmly and explained to her how he would be physically swimming with her back to the shore. Officer Berken was able to rescue the woman from the piling, swimming her the remaining twenty yards to shore where she was pulled from the water.
The woman appeared to have been drinking and complained only of being cold as well as lacerations to her legs from holding on to the wood piling. She was treated at the scene by Hoquiam paramedics before being transported to Community Hospital for a mental health evaluation and medical treatment for her injuries.
Sgt. Blundred commended the actions of Officer Berken to Aberdeen Chief Steve Shumate:
“While the actions noted above speak clearly for Officer Berken’s importance in this incident, I would like to reiterate how important it was that Officer Berken showed great self-awareness and character during this incident. Officer Berken spoke up and made me aware of his individual ability in a difficult moment. He was confident, but not reckless and knew he had the individual skillset to work towards a safe outcome in this life or death type of situation.
While many would have over-exaggerated or over-estimated their own abilities, Officer Berken, was keenly aware of his individual abilities and clearly understood the risk he was taking on for himself. He volunteered himself for a very difficult challenge which he carried out flawlessly through his character, tact, and excellent communication with myself and the female in the river. If not for Officer Berken speaking up about his ability and confidence to swim out to the female this incident could have likely resulted in a very tragic outcome.”
The Hoquiam Police Department continues to appreciate the assistance of our law enforcement partners from the Aberdeen Police Department. With incidents such as this, the additional help is needed and is greatly appreciated, especially on the graveyard shift when on-duty resources are the most limited.
Myers added, “This is yet another example of how both communities are better served by the close partnership between our two departments.”