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    HomeUnited StatesU.S Coast GuardCoast Guard Swimmer Recounts Dramatic Rescue of Alleged Oregon Yacht Thief and...

    Coast Guard Swimmer Recounts Dramatic Rescue of Alleged Oregon Yacht Thief and ‘Goonies’ Prankster

    Coast Guard Swimmer Recounts Dramatic Rescue of Alleged Oregon Yacht Thief and ‘Goonies' Prankster

    On the morning the U.S. Coast Guard in Astoria received a frantic mayday call from a yacht sinking near the treacherous mouth of the Columbia River, John “Branch” Walton was in his fifth and final day of advanced training as a rescue swimmer.

    Walton and his classmates leapt at the chance to respond. But it was a quick game of rock-paper-scissors that settled which swimmer would plunge into the churning, frigid waters nearby. Walton won. He was the least experienced of the bunch.

    “They all could have got it done, but they let me go,” Walton said. “I was kind of in disbelief, like, ‘Oh, is this really happening?'”

    Unbeknownst to the 22-year-old who learned to swim only after joining the Coast Guard a few years earlier, he'd soon execute a very difficult rescue seamlessly. And he would be thrust into the national limelight as millions viewed video of his first real-world rescue, taken from a camera mounted to the Coast Guard helicopter that flew him to the imperiled boater. Walton was widely lauded for his courage and agility.

    It wasn't until later that day that Walton and others in the Coast Guard would learn the man he'd pulled from the stormy waters allegedly had stolen the $160,000 yacht and drawn the attention of Astoria police for placing a dead fish on the porch of the famous “Goonies” house days earlier.

    Two 47-foot Coast Guard boats that were being used for…

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