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Coast Guard saves huge Goonies fan who had stolen yacht

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In an absolutely bizarre situation, a Canadian man who stole a yacht in Oregon was swamped by waves at the mouth of the Columbia River, called in a MAYDAY distress call, and was rescued by a Coast Guard rescue swimmer.

Further adding a weird twist to this story was that the man, identified as 35-year-old Jericho Lobonte of Victoria, BC, had gone to the house in Astoria that was used in the ’80s smash hit Goonies and left a dead fish on the porch.

The mouth of the Columbia River separates the states of Washington and Oregon and is popularly known as the “Graveyard of the Pacific.” The area is known for its extremely powerful currents and very rough seas that can become too difficult for even the most experienced sailors to navigate.

On Friday morning at about 10 a.m., the Coast Guard was conducting routine training nearby when they got the rescue call from the yacht and used radio tower triangulation to fix its exact location. The Coast Guard dispatched a 47-foot Motor Lifeboat and an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter aircrew of the Advanced Rescue Helicopter School launched from Coast Guard Station Cape Disappointment.

The rescue team was able to locate the yacht which was taking on water in the very rough water. At the time, there were 20-foot seas at the location — meaning the height of a wave from the previous trough could be as much as 40 feet, Coast Guard spokesman Petty Officer Michael Clark said.

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Screenshot capture of the rescue video released by the Coast Guard. (Coast Guard Pacific Northwest Twitter)

The Coast Guard deemed the seas too rough for the rescue lifeboat, so they alerted the rescue swimmer, Aviation Survival Technician 3rd Class John “Branch” Walton, who was on his first rescue mission after just graduating from the Coast Guard’s rescue swimmer program. A rescue winch then lowered Walton from the helicopter. As he neared the vessel, Lobonte climbed onto the yacht’s stern, preparing to get into the water.

But the yacht was hit broadside by a huge wave that slammed it, throwing Lobonte into the surf. The force of the wave was so powerful that the yacht capsized and then rolled completely over and once again floated upright.

Having seen the massive wave approaching, Walton prepared himself and rode it out perfectly. He then located and proceeded to Lobonte. The pair was then hoisted back up into the Jayhawk helicopter. Lobonte was airlifted to Coast Guard Station Astoria, where he was treated for a slight case of hypothermia. 

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An MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew from Coast Guard Sector Humboldt Bay conducts search and rescue training in the surf off the coast of Somoa Dunes Beach, CA. Monthly training is conducted in the event of an actual surf rescue, they are proficient in their rescue skills. (U.S. Coast Guard District 11 photo by Aux. William Greer)

After having been stabilized and released, authorities notified the Coast Guard that Lobonte was suspected of having stolen the vessel. It was afterward learned that Lobonte was also wanted for crimes in Canada. Local authorities put out an All-Points-Bulletin (APB) on him. 

An acquaintance of Lobonte alerted authorities to a weird video he had posted on social media of himself leaving a fish at the house from Goonies and then dancing around the property, according to Astoria Police Chief Stacy Kelly.

Kelly added that Lobonte had a weird fascination with the Goonies film, to even uttering the famous phrase from Goonies, “Hey you Gu-uys!” upon his arrest.

Police said that Lobonte will be charged with theft, endangering another person (Coast Guard rescue swimmer Walton), unauthorized use of a vehicle, and criminal mischief (for throwing the fish on the porch). In Canada, he’s wanted for criminal harassment, mischief, and failure to comply x 3.

Feature Image: Coastguardsmen involved in the rescue with rescue swimmer John Walton in the center. (Photo by AET1 Kyle Turcotte/Coast Guard Pacific Northwest Twitter)

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Steve Balestrieri