Couple escapes death after car floats down Kilchis River days before Christmas

Joseph Rogers and Angela Giacherio’s vehicle was extracted from the Kilchis River on Dec. 26, just days after the two had escaped the vehicle. – Citizen Photo by Max Kirkendall

“I’ve always had a lot of respect for the water and this was a fluke. It was not human error by no means. We were in a trapped cage, floating down the river.”
By Max Kirkendall
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Those were the haunting words from Tillamook County resident Joseph Rogers, who had just watched his vehicle get extracted from the Kilchis River.
On Dec. 22 around 6:30 p.m. Rogers and Angela Giacherio were heading into Tillamook to finish up some last minute Christmas shopping. On their way into town, the couple decided to stop by the Kilchis River Park County Boat Launch to check the water quality for fishing.
Rogers drove down the ramp about four to six feet from the water and had Giacherio put on the parking brake while he got out to inspect the river.
“I got back in the car and we were just sitting there going over our Christmas list, making sure we had everyone covered, and then all of the sudden, ‘bang!’” Rogers said. “It sounded like something had broke loose, either the transmission or the e-brake, and immediately we were in the water.”
As the vehicle began to drift into the river, the car’s electrical shut off and the couple could not see due to darkness, but more importantly, they could not escape through either the doors nor the windows.
“It was tight as a drum,” Rogers said. “I tried to bust out the window with my elbow, but I couldn’t do it and at that point, I could feel the current take us into the middle of the river.”
As Rogers continued to pound the window, he said his life began to flash before his eyes and he started to lose hope.
“He yelled, ‘oh god, we’re going to die,’ and I just kept saying ‘we’re not going to die, we’re not going to die,’” Giacherio said.
Feeling the desperation, Rogers pounded the window as hard as he could until it finally broke. However, by that point the car had already drifted about 60-70 yards down the center of the river according to Rogers.
“I stripped down and we dove out because the car was filling up with water,” Rogers said. “We both swam to the bank and helped each other up. We couldn’t see, hypothermia was setting in and we had to go through about 50 yards of sticker bushes with nothing but a tee shirt on.”
After escaping the blackberry bushes, the couple trudged through a muddy field and back up to Kilchis River Road. With nothing but a tee shirt on in the cold winter night, Rogers and Giacherio then attempted to flag down a car to help them, but were unsuccessful at first.
“Nobody would stop for us,” Rogers said. “I would say about 10 vehicles just drove right past us and we banged on a bunch of houses doors and nobody answered.”
Finally, Rogers managed to stop a vehicle and he was able to phone his son to pick them up. On Dec. 26, Rogers assisted Burden’s towing in extracting his Ford Explorer from the river, and he admitted both he and Giacherio were still in shock.
“I’ve lived here since 1964, I’m an avid fisher and I’ve done this hundreds of times, nothing was any different,” Rogers said. “But this time, the mechanical device failed and we barely got out alive.”
Rogers and Giacherio own a local business called Aangels Traffic Control. Just recently, the two opened up another business called Smokin’ Joes and Son’s Beef Bones for Dogs and unfortunately lost a lot of materials for their new business in the accident. Despite the loss, both are feeling extremely grateful to have escaped alive and want others to learn from their experience as well.
“The only advice I could give is to never park on a decline because you can’t trust your parking brake or transmission,” Rogers said. “All the stuff we lost in the car, it just doesn’t matter, your life is just so valuable and our lives are our Christmas gifts this year.”

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