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Conditions 'messy' at time of doctor's death, surf shop employee says

Brian Sudlow, an employee at a Ossies, a surf shop in Newport said conditions at the time of the incident were rough.

Posted: Dec 3, 2018 5:13 PM
Updated: Dec 3, 2018 7:27 PM

CORVALLIS, Ore. -- Conditions were "messy" and "windy" over the weekend when a Corvallis doctor died, an employee at a surf shop in Newport said.

Oregon State Police said at about 3:30 p.m. Saturday, they received a 911 call reporting that Toren Stearns, 30, was in water and in distress near Otter Rock State Park, just north of Newport. 

RELATED: Corvallis doctor dies while surfing near Newport

Brian Sudlow, who works at the surf shop Ossies, said conditions at the time of the incident were rough. On Saturday, their shop refused to rent gear to their customers because of these conditions.

"That rip current will pull you out and you get pulled past that point, and it's kind of a crapshoot of where the water is moving at that point," Sudlow said. "You don't know what's going to happen."

Police said the U.S. Coast Guard dispatched a cutter boat and rescue helicopter to assist in the rescue. A local surfer also went into the water to help. A rescue swimmer recovered Stearns and brought him onto the beach.

Stearns was transported by helicopter to Samaritan Pacific Communities Hospital in Newport, where he later died.

Dr. Sugat Patel, the Director of Medical Education at Good Samaritan Hospital in Corvallis, said Stearns was a valuable member of their psychiatric team. 

Patel said he didn't know Stearns personally, but he's spoken to people who did.

"I do know talking to members of his class and people reaching out to us that he was a genuinely kind-hearted and gentle soul," he said.

Patel said Stearns was in his fourth and final year of post-graduate training at Good Samaritan Hospital.

"This is a huge loss for our community and our department," he said. "Our hearts go out to his family, his fiancee and the members of his team."

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