Between 30 and 50 bodies are found each year in Portland’s rivers

Willamette River (KOIN Photo)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Every year, officials find a disturbingly high number of bodies in Portland’s rivers.

The Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office river patrol alone recovers dozens of bodies each year from Portland area waterways.

“Typically in the average of somewhere between 30 and 50 a year,” Sgt. Stephen Dangler with the river patrol said.

Compare that to Columbus, Ohio’s Scioto River, where just two kayakers drowned this year.

The bodies end up in the rivers for any number of reasons, but one stands out.

“It’s an unfortunate turn of events when somebody looks at suicide,” Dangler said.

Dangler said suicide jumps happen more often than you’d begin to know. News organizations, including KOIN 6, don’t typically report on them, but suicides are a big reason’s Portland’s annual water body count far exceeds that of most other cities.

Oregon ranked 13th for suicide deaths in the country, and suicide is the 8th leading cause of death overall in the state, according to the American Association for Suicide Prevention.

“You have to look at the amount of accessibility that we have,” Dangler said. “The number of bridges that span so much of our waterways.”

In 2013, officials installed fences on the Vista Bridge, which does not span a river, but earned the local nickname “Suicide Bridge” after 5 people jumped to their deaths that year.

Dangler has stories for every one of Portland’s famous bridges and says as long as their many access points remain a portal for those seeking escape, the body recovery count will continue to be unacceptably high.

“If somebody were to go into the water, unfortunately if we don’t locate the body that evening, we may not see it for several days to a half a year,” Dangler said.