Resort employees begin search for missing swimmer before agencies arrive

Two men from the Galice Resort voluntarily got into a boat and started searching for the swimmer the moment they learned someone was in danger.

Posted: Aug 16, 2019 6:25 PM

MERLIN, Ore. -- After nearly 20 hours of searching, crews found the body of a missing swimmer in the Rogue River. Josephine County Sheriff's Office, Jackson County Sheriff's Office and Rural Metro Fire all helped search. Officials from those agencies told NewsWatch12 they want to give a special thank you to the employees at Galice Resort for helping the friends of the victim.

Wendy Jones, an employee at Galice Resort, said, "It was a split of the moment decision."

She said her coworkers didn't think twice.

The moment they heard a swimmer was missing nearby in the Rogue River, Jones said, "They saw the need, they jumped in a boat and ran the boat to the boat dock and hit the water."

According to police, the friends of 44-year-old Jason Briggs ran to the Galice Resort for help. They needed signal to call 911, but they got more than just a phone call. Two employees took the situation into their own hands and jumped into action to begin the search for Briggs shortly after the friends came in to call 911. 

"They know how faraway help can be out here," Jones said. 

They continued searching even after agencies arrived, but by 9 p.m. the search transitioned into a recovery that would resume Friday morning at 9 a.m.

Austin Prince, the Division Chief at Rural Metro Fire, explained why it transitioned into a recovery, "You can only hold your breath for so long, you've already passed the point of being rescued. So there's a need to transition from looking to just trying to recover the body of the person that's missing."

Among the multiple agencies and crews that helped with the search and rescue, there were five divers. One diver NewsWatch12 spoke with said it's not uncommon for people to try swimming across the Rogue River.

James, a Josephine County Search and Rescue diver, said, "Well you can see that it's very calm, but it can be deceiving. Through here it's fairly shallow, but you'll have a few places that are deeper. In any case you need to have a life jacket."

That's one thing every official NewsWatch12 spoke with seems to agree on.

Jone said, "Always wear a life jacket, whether you're in a raft or swimming, it's a needed item it's not a fashion accessory - it's what can literally save your life."

"Having a life jacket has proved,in almost every case, to save people's lives," Prince said. 

"The lifejacket is hopefully going to be what saves you," James said. 

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