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Boat Operator Arrested; Search Continuing for Missing Woman Presumed Drowned in John Day River
Wade McLeod, District Attorney
Sherman County District Attorney's Office
Office: (541) 565-3534
Lieutenant Gregg Hastings
Public Information Officer
Office: (503) 731-3020 ext. 247

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State, county and Corp of Engineer personnel are resuming the search Sunday morning for a missing Sandy, Oregon woman who is presumed to have drowned following a Saturday evening alcohol-involved boat crash on the John Day River near LePage Park. The boat's operator survived and was taken into custody after he was released from an area hospital following treatment for minor injuries.
On August 22, 2009 at approximately 6:30 p.m. two people were on a 21-foot Aluminator boat on the John Day River near the mouth with the Columbia River when the boat's operator lost control. Others boating in the area came upon a debris field in the water where they found the boat's operator, GERALD RAYMOND FITZPATRICK, age 38, from Sandy, in the water with minor injuries. He was not wearing a life jacket. The boat had broken apart and a 43-year old female identified as MARIE J. RIEHL was missing.
Boats from Sherman County Sheriff's Office, Oregon State Police Fish & Wildlife Division, Klickitat County Sheriff's Office and Army Corps of Engineers launched an area search until calling it off at approximately 9:00 p.m. Oregon State Police (OSP) troopers and deputies from Sherman and Gilliam counties also responded to assist with the search and investigation. Search efforts resumed Sunday morning with additional assistance requested from Skamania County Sheriff's Office dive team.
FITZPATRICK was transported by Arlington Ambulance to Mid-Columbia Medical Center for treatment. OSP troopers, working in cooperation with Sherman County District Attorney Wade McLeod, arrested FITZPATRICK upon his release from the hospital Saturday night and lodged him at the Northern Oregon Regional Correctional Facility (NORCOR) in The Dalles for Criminally Negligent Homicide and Boating Under the Influence of Intoxicants. NORCOR confirmed FITZPATRICK bailed out during the night.
FITZPATRICK and RIEHL resided together in Sandy and were reportedly camping in the area with friends.
Questions regarding a pending court appearance on this case should be directed to Sherman County District Attorney Wade McLeod on Monday at (541) 565-3534.
According to the Oregon State Marine Board (OSMB), "boating and alcohol is a deadly mix. Alcohol is involved in approximately 30 percent of boating fatalities in Oregon each year, 50-70 percent nationwide." A link to a past OSMB news release related to this topic is available on their website at http://www.oregon.gov/OSMB/safety/BUII.shtml.