Searchers in kayaks find Metolius drowning victim

Corvallis sushi chef, 62, was enjoying day fishing with wife

Searchers look for fallen fisherman

CAMP SHERMAN, Ore. - Searchers on Tuesday found and recovered the body of a 62-year-old Corvallis sushi chef who was spending the Memorial Day holiday fishing on the Metolius River at Camp Sherman with his wife when he accidentally stumbled and fell into the cold, swift-moving river, authorities said.

Searchers in kayaks found the body of Isamu (Sam) Furuichi around 2:30 p.m., nearly 2 ½ miles downstream from where he fell into the water, said Jefferson County sheriff's Patrol Capt. Marc Heckathorn.

He was found still wearing his neoprene chest waders, and was not wearing a life jacket, Heckathorn said, adding that alcohol and drugs were not believed to be factors in the accident.

The search ramped up Monday afternoon and evening, involving several agencies who kept looking until dark, when the effort was scaled back overnight before picking up after sunrise Tuesday, both along the shore of the popular fishing area, by kayaks and a LifeFlight helicopter searching from the air.

It was "a total team effort," said Sheriff's Search and Rescue Coordinator Dave Blann.

"Without the help from our partners at the Deschutes County Sheriff's Office providing their swift-water rescue team and LifeFlight helping in the search, things may not have ended so quickly."

Blann said LifeFlight allowed a member of the swift water team to fly with them, not just to help search but also to scout the river to make sure their team could safely search the water below.

Once the search resumed on the water, Furuichi was found in about a half-hour, about 3,000 feet downstream from where the search had been forced to stop Monday night due to darkness, Heckathorn said.

Recovery efforts then took another hour. Once Furuichi's remains were removed from the water, they were taken to Bel-Air Funeral Home in Madras.

"This is a tragic ending to a day of fishing," Heckathorn wrote in a news release, "and the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office reminds people that inflatable life jackets are great options for fishermen to be wearing, as they tend to not interfere with their fishing, but still (have) the ability to save their life, should they fall in."

The first report came in around 3:40 p.m. Monday from the Candle Creek Campground, at the confluence of Candle Creek and the Metolius River, that a man was fishing along the shore, near bridge 99, when he slipped and fell in the river and was washed downstream, Heckathorn said.

Officials on scene said the man's wife saw him slip, get up and slip again, falling into the frigid water.

"Justin," a commenter on KTVZ.COM, said he was on scene with minutes and they found his fishing vest, net and pole.

The man was not wearing a life jacket, Heckathorn said, noting that the Metolius "is very powerful in this remote area."

The river is "extremely dangerous to navigate, full of trees and snags," Heckathorn said. Search efforts also were hampered by lack of radio communication and cell service in the area.

The Jefferson County Sheriff's Search and Rescue Team was assisted by the Deschutes County SAR swift-water rescue unit, as well as Oregon State Police, Black Butte Ranch police and the Sisters-Camp Sherman Fire District.

Hopes were high initially that the man might have made it out of the water downstream.

"We really hope that we can find him on the shore somewhere where he self-rescued," said Sisters-Camp Sherman Fire Capt. Jay Crawford. "So we've got people searching the shores by ground and air. But as time goes on, the odds of that diminish."

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