Rescue crews searched a fastflowing stretch of the Spokane River on Saturday after a man reportedly dove into the river and was swept away.
Witnesses said the man was yelling and seemed disoriented when he went head first into the water and tried to swim across the river, more than a mile upstream from Millwood.
Volunteer sheriff’s divers joined search and rescue crews in an attempt to find the man in the swollen river. A helicopter with spotters flew overhead.
Several rescuers were stationed at the bridge on Argonne Road in case the man was carried that far downstream.
The 1:30 p.m. incident occurred along a wooded stretch of the Centennial Trail known as Donkey Island. The area was being used heavily on Saturday.
Jackie Pederson, her husband, Larry, and son, Jason, were bicycling along the trail on the north bank when they said they heard the man yelling from across the river on the south side. He seemed confused, they said.
The man spotted a woman on the Centennial Trail and was yelling like he knew her, they said.
“He was yelling, ‘Wait, wait, I want to talk to you,”’ Jackie Pederson said. The man was calling out the name, “Stephanie,” she said.
The woman, who was with two others, jogged off, apparently because the man was making her uncomfortable, the Pedersons said.
As she left, she told the Pedersons she did not know the man and her name was not Stephanie.
That’s when the man dove into the river and tried to swim across, said Jason Pederson. When he reached the middle of the river, he realized he wasn’t going to make it and began yelling for help.
The current swept him under. About 200 yards downstream, another witness reported the man bobbed to the surface face-down, but wasn’t struggling by then. He disappeared.
That’s where rescuers concentrated their efforts Saturday afternoon. Divers, attached to safety ropes, went to the bottom checking along the rocks and boulders.
Boats from the sheriff’s department and the Spokane Fire Department were sent to help the divers and scan the water from above, but visibility was limited because of the coloring from spring runoff.
The Pedersons said the man is in his late 20s or early 30s, about six feet tall and has a stocky build. He has black hair and was wearing a black T-shirt and blue jeans.
After more than an hour of searching, sheriff’s deputies at the scene said they were not optimistic about finding the man alive.