Man falls from Christmas ship after parade; presumed dead

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ST. HELENS, Ore. — A 43-year-old St. Helens man is presumed dead after falling from a docked Christmas ship Saturday night, authorities said.

John Sullivan was upstairs, on the back of the 65-foot boat’s cabin, when he slipped, fell and hit the swimboard of the boat and went into the Columbia River, said Jess Heitman, president of the Christmas Ship organization.

He was thrown a life ring that was tethered to the boat, but was unable to reach it, Heitman said.

Sullivan was a guest on the Trilogy, owned by a Scappoose, Ore., man, Heitman said Sunday evening. He said this is the first year Trilogy has been in the parade.

Heitman said the parade had been over for about 90 minutes when the accident happened.

The St. Helens Police Department is leading the investigation of the incident and in charge of the search and recovery efforts.

In an email, the organization said, “The Christmas Ship organization has been supporting safety training and issues at all general meetings, with special emphasis on the wearing of personal flotation devices while on the water and specifically while on the deck of a vessel. … Our parade will continue as scheduled on both rivers.”

It continued, “Our thoughts and prayers are with our family of boaters and friends in this difficult time.”

As of Sunday night, there had been no recovery.