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Passenger recovering from 10 broken ribs after motor boat hits submerged tree on Deschutes River near La Pine

(Update: Adding video, new details on crash and victim, safety tips from DCSO Marine Patrol)

Operator 'cooperative' but cited for running boat on river where motorized craft prohibited

LA PINE, Ore. (KTVZ) – A 50-year-old man was thrown from a motorized boat and seriously injured Saturday afternoon when it struck a submerged tree on the Deschutes River near La Pine State Park, Deschutes County sheriff’s deputies said.

The boat operator was cited for running the jet boat on a stretch of river that is closed to motorized craft, Sergeant Jason Wall said.

Wall offered additional details on Tuesday regarding the man's status and clarified that it was a motorized drift boat, not jet boat, that was involved in the crash.

The man was taken to St. Charles Bend, where he's being treated for 10 broken ribs.

"His injuries were life-threatening at the time of the incident," he said. "However, he's been relatively stabilized at the hospital."

This accident is the first of its kind on the river this season.

Deschutes County Marine Patrol Deputy Terry Miller told us, "This is a pretty infrequent thing, to have a boating accident on that stretch of river."

According to both deputies, motorized boats aren't allowed on the Upper Deschutes. But this kind of accident is rare on that stretch of river.

"We've had some incidents where basically kayakers or paddle boarders have basically ended up in the water, caught on snags and things like that," Miller said. "So it's rare to even see one, let alone have an accident with a motorboat in that stretch."

He also pointed out that water in the Deschutes River is colder than most places in the state, usually never getting above 55 degrees. That can lead to hypothermia, shortness of breath, and even render your arms and legs useless if you fall in.

"Your body acts differently," Miller said. "Your stamina goes way down, you cramp up. You might even gasp when you fall into it, and suck water into your lungs."

Deputies were dispatched to the crash around 3:15 p.m. Saturday. Initial reports indicated the boat was traveling upriver when it hit the underwater tree, throwing one of the passengers, Wall said. Sheriff’s Search and Rescue also responded to the scene to assist La Pine Fire medics.

Wall said, "Both people that were on the boat weren't wearing life jackets (but) had them accessible to them. A boating under the influence investigation was initiated, and it wasn't determined to be a factor --alcohol wasn't determined to be a factor."

Miller says deputies have gone onto the Upper Deschutes and cleared out potential debris ahead of the warmer weather.

"So we spend a ton of time talking to people out on the water and educating them," he said. "We can back it up with a citation, but we try to get the word out with an educational approach."

Article Topic Follows: Accidents and Crashes

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Blake Mayfield

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