Anglers save woman swept into Rogue

A salmon fishing trip quickly turned into a rescue mission Wednesday morning after two anglers pulled a struggling woman from the Rogue River.

William Mate, 54, and Everett Goettsch, 73, were fishing from a drift boat near the Obstinate J Ranch in the 2900 block of Highway 62 when a floundering woman and her dog came rushing by heading downstream, Mate said.

"We yelled at her and asked if she was all right," Mate said. "She was able to shake her head 'no' and we knew she was in trouble."

The fishermen had to paddle hard to reach the woman before she disappeared under the water, Mate said.

"She was just going up and down," Mate said. "We knew she didn't have a lot of energy left to save herself."

They managed to snag the woman's arm and rowed with her along the side of the boat to the shore. It took both men to pull her from the water, Mate said.

"She wasn't doing very well when we pulled her out," Mate said. "She was coughing up a lot of water and couldn't talk at all."

Meanwhile, the dog, described as a German shepherd by Mate, managed to swim safely to shore.

The woman, later identified as Sheryl Barker, 49, of Montara, Calif., was thrown from a raft she was riding in with her boyfriend and dog after it hit a rock.

She was not wearing a lifejacket, Jackson County Sheriff Mike Winters said.

Mate ran to a house along the riverbank and called for help. A Mercy Flights helicopter was dispatched to the scene and took her to Rogue Valley Medical Center. She was released after treatment, Winters said.

"She was improving even before the helicopter arrived," Winters said. "But even a near-drowning has to be treated very seriously."

Once again this summer, Winters reminded boaters always to wear lifejackets on the river.

"We've had numerous drownings on local rivers this year," Winters said. "I cannot express how important it is to wear your lifejacket at all times, no matter how good of a swimmer you think you are."

Three people have drowned in the Rogue River in the Blossom Bar area near Agness since June 1. Two were wearing lifejackets but got pinned against some rocks known as the Picket Fence. A Grants Pass man died last week after jumping into the river in Hellgate Canyon.

"I wasn't scared at the time because we had to act so fast," Mate said about Baker's rescue later in the afternoon. "But now I can't stop shaking when I think about it."

And even though the men did not get so much as a nibble from a salmon, they are glad they took to the water Wednesday morning, Mate said.

"She wouldn't have lasted too much longer after we saw her," Mate said. "Another minute or two in that water and she would no longer be with us."

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 776-4471; or e-mail

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