What started out as a report of a loud party on Santiam
Bluffs Road early this morning turned into a massive search of the Santiam River
for people deputies feared might have drowned.
Deputies eventually found that all the young people who had been there were safe
and accounted for.
According to Linn County Sheriff Dave Burright, the
sheriff's office got a phone call about midnight from someone who lives on
Santiam Bluffs, a road along the river just west of Jefferson, reporting loud
Two deputies got there about 12:30 a.m. One of them
spoke to a group of young people on the road, while the second deputy walked
along the riverbank. When they saw him, at least three people jumped in the
river and began swimming across.
The deputy then heard a female voice coming from the river, crying for help and
saying that she wasn't able to stay afloat. The deputy lost sight of her in the
darkness, but saw a couple of other people scrambling out of the water on the
The deputies immediately called for backup, and workers from the Linn and Marion
County sheriff's offices, the Albany and Jefferson fire districts and the Oregon
State Police - a total of 44 people - arrived to help, searching the river and
both sides of the bank.
They found nine people still near the river.
"Most of them were at least initially completely uncooperative,"
They refused to tell deputies how many people had originally been with them and
how many remained unaccounted for. After several hours, they finally told
deputies that there were six people missing, and the workers continued
At 5:15 a.m., deputies acting on tips found two of the missing youths near
Lancaster Mall in Salem. Burright said they somehow walked away from the river
and got a ride to Salem.
At 5:45 a.m., an OSP trooper found two others, including the girl who had called
for help from the river, walking into the Santiam Rest Area on Interstate 5.
By this time, the other people had also told deputies that the last two of their
missing friends were safe and had called them on their cell phones since the
All 15 of the young people at the river - nine male and six female - were from
the Salem area. They ranged in age from 16 to 23. Six of them were cited on
minor in possession of alcohol charges, and one man, Robert Ray III, 23, was
arrested for interfering with a police officer and lodged at the Linn County