Dougan Falls rescue

Specialized teams pluck John Napierkowski from the Upper Washougal River

A Washougal man was rescued by emergency crews last night after his legs became trapped under some rocks at Dougan Falls.

According to a press release from the Skamania County Sheriff’s Office, just after 8 p.m., deputies responded to a 911 call reporting that a man was stuck in the water.

Upon arrival, emergency crews discovered John Napierkowski, 19, in the Upper Washougal River in turbulent water, downstream from a small waterfall and under a bridge. Napierkowski’s legs or feet were trapped and he was in chest-deep water.

First responders began the rescue by providing a life jacket to Napierkowski and tying ropes around him. He was then fitted with a harness and additional rope. They began pulling on the rope from upriver, freeing Napierkowski. He was placed in a stokes basket and pulled out of the water.

According to Skamania County Sheriff Dave Brown, Napierkowski was stuck in the water for approximately 1 hour. He was able to follow instructions from first responders, but was feeling the effects of being in the 58 to 60 degree river water for an extended period of time. He was described as being “coherent and following instructions but lethargic.”

According to a press release from Skamania County EMS, Napierkowski was transported to PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center in Vancouver, where he was treated for hypothermia and minor injuries.

Completing the rescue were responders from Skamania County Emergency Medical Services and Fire Districts 4 and 5, the Clark County Technical Rescue Team, and the Skamania County Sheriff’s Office Dive Team.

Brown cautioned people to exercise safety precautions when swimming in the area’s natural waterways.

“This stretch of warm weather has kept first responders busy throughout the area,” he said. “We encourage people visiting the Dougan Falls area and other popular swimming areas to be safe, use a life jacket when necessary and know the hazards so that you can avoid trouble, if possible.”