A mariner in distress near the mouth of the Columbia River was rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard just as the vessel was capsized by a breaking wave, with authorities later confirming the man was wanted by police after leaving a dead fish at an Astoria, Ore. home featured in the 1980s film The Goonies.
According to a news release from the U.S. Coast Guard, multiple units responded to a location about six miles west of the mouth of the Columbia River on Friday morning, after receiving a mayday call from the 35-foot vessel.
“On-scene personnel communicated with the distressed mariner and learned that the vessel was taking on water. On-scene conditions were reported to be 20-foot seas and extremely high wind speeds,” the statement said.
Video footage from the U.S. Coast Guard shows rescue swimmer John Walton, a student of the Advanced Helicopter Rescue School, winched down to the water and swim towards the yacht, just as a breaking wave capsizes the vessel.
According to the coast guard, the mariner — later identified by police as 35-year-old Jericho Labonte — was ejected from the vessel when it was hit by the wave. But Labonte was found by Walton, hoisted to the awaiting helicopter and taken to get medical care.
“After the mariner was released to the care of emergency medical personnel, local authorities notified the coast guard that the individual is suspected to have stolen the vessel,” the Coast Guard said.
In a statement, the Astoria Police Department said Labonte — a Victoria, B.C. resident, according to news reports — was wanted by police after posting a video of himself on Facebook putting a dead fish on the front porch of the Goonies' house.
According to police, officers received a call from a port security official informing them the vessel involved in Friday’s Coast Guard rescue had been stolen from the Port of Astoria.
At the same time, police said several citizens were calling in, notifying police the rescued victim appeared to be Labonte.
“He had been transported to Columbia Memorial Hospital after the rescue as a precaution and was discharged before being identified as the suspect,” police said.
Astoria police said they have since taken Labonte into custody. Online court documents show Labonte is facing criminal charges in B.C. of criminal harassment and mischief, and a warrant was issued for his arrest after he failed to show up to his first court appearance in December. He has a number of criminal convictions in the Victoria area dating back to 2015.
According to the coast guard, the incident was Walton’s first life saved as a rescue swimmer. Hours after the rescue, Walton and his classmates graduated from the Advanced Rescue Helicopter School.
(2/4)…who launched motor life boats from STA Cape Disappointment, the air crews arrived on scene to find the vessel floundering in the surf! The surf made rescue by boat dangerous, so the aircrew decided to lower the rescue swimmer and have the owner enter the water for rescue… pic.twitter.com/z92WvzpTG9— USCGPacificNorthwest (@USCGPacificNW) February 3, 2023