ASTORIA, Ore. (KATU) — U.S. Coast Guard crews rescued a boater in distress just as his boat capsized in the surf near on Friday.
Police in Astoria said the boater, who was identified as 35-year-old Jericho Labonte, was accused of stealing the boat. He is also suspected of leaving a large dead fish on the porch of the "Goonies" house.
According to the Coast Guard, two aircrews were on a training mission at the mouth of the Columbia River in Oregon when they got a “mayday” call from a boat that was “floundering in the surf."
A boat crew was also called out from the Coast Guard Station at Cape Disappointment, but the surf made a boat rescue too dangerous.
Coast Guard officials decided to lower the rescue swimmer, who was on his first rescue, and have Labonte enter the water.
Just as he jumped into the water, the vessel capsized. The rescue swimmer was able to safely get to Labonte, who was flown back to the Astoria Coast Guard Base for a medical evaluation.
He was released around 3:30 p.m., as authorities at that time did not know the boat was stolen.
Police were notified around 4 p.m. that the boat had been stolen from the Astoria Port.
Police found Labonte at a warming shelter in Seaside, where he had used a fake name. They arrested him around 7:30 p.m.
Officers had been looking for him since Wednesday, when an acquaintance alerted them to a video he had posted on social media of himself leaving the fish at the Goonies house and then dancing around the property, said Astoria Police Chief Stacy Kelly.
Police said Labonte has five outstanding warrants in Victoria, British Columbia. Victoria police are sending officers to Oregon to question him.
The rescue swimmer, Petty Officer 1st Class Branch Walton, of Greenville, South Carolina, only recently graduated from the Coast Guard's rescue swimmer program.
Walton said in an interview Friday that he planned to reach the man, get him in the water and hook him to a cable attached to the helicopter. Instead, the wave hit.
I kind of got thrown around a little bit by the wave. When I came up I noticed the boat was pretty much in shambles," Walton said.
He directed the helicopter to bring him to Labonte after spotting him in the surf a short distance away. The force of the wave had mostly knocked off his life jacket, Walton said.
EDITOR'S NOTE: The Associated Press contributed to this report.