By Vallient Corley
WesCom News Service
GOLD BEACH, Ore. A 66-year-old man was reported in stable physical condition Tuesday after his body temperature dropped to 84 degrees before he was rescued from the rocky surf north of Gold Beach over the weekend.
Donald Cross, a transient from the Gold Beach area, remained in Curry County General Hospital where he was treated for hypothermia and minor abrasions.
Rebecca Zwart of Gold Beach had been walking on Bailey Beach, four miles north of Gold Beach, when she called 911 about 8:25 a.m. Saturday to report she had spotted a half nude man in the surf among rocks at the base of cliffs near Otter Point, Sergeant John Ward of the Curry County Sheriff's Department said.
The Coast Guard was notified and a helicopter was requested to assist in the search.
A sheriff's deputy responded to the area of Otter Point but was not able to locate the man from the cliff area.
Ward, the Curry County Search and Rescue coordinator, went to Otter point by way of Bailey Beach with an All Terrain Vehicle.
Ward located Cross half submerged in the surf along the rocks at the base of the cliffs.
Ward said Cross was conscious but not responsive and unable to assist himself.
The sergeant climbed along the rocks and waded into the surf to pull Cross from the water.
Gold Beach Fire Department personnel arrived on the beach in one of officers' personal ATV.
Firefighters helped Ward get Cross into a litter rescue basket. They then took Cross to the Old Coast Road where they met a Cal Ore Life Flight Ambulance, which took Cross to the hospital.
Cross' core body temperature was 84 degrees when he arrived at the hospital, Ward said.
Cross was not able to provide details about why he was on the beach or how he ended up in the surf.
MayoClinic.com says factors contributing to the risk of hypothermia in cold water include the temperature of the water and the length of time spent in it.
"Rescue time is crucial when a person accidentally falls into cold water," the Website says. "Chances of survival are affected by how cold the water is: The colder the water, the less the chance of survival."
The United States Search and Rescue Task Force says the 50- to 60-degree temperature of Central Pacific coastal waters year-round will result in exhaustion or unconsciousness in one to two hours with expected time of survival in the water one to six hours.
Mayo says people age 65 and older are especially vulnerable because they may have other illnesses or take medications that can interfere with the body's ability to regulate temperature.
"The severity of hypothermia can vary, depending on how low your core body temperature goes," Mayo says. "Severe hypothermia will eventually lead to cardiac and respiratory failure, then death."