Submitted by Meg Dowaliby
On Tuesday evening, Rick Langel of Damascus, Oregon parked his van and attached trailer on Del Rey Beach on August 22nd while he waited for some friends. Langel, 61, is a musician who is visiting from Portland to take a break and enjoy the cooler weather. He explained that he had been out to the area earlier in the year.
The friends he was visiting are from Wheeler and they planned to meet up in the Gearhart/Seaside area. Langel explains that the first night he slept in his camper in Seaside due to the no-camping ordinance in Gearhart. He went back to Gearhart the next day where he and his friends, husband and wife of Wheeler, planned to meet. The husband came out and met him while the wife was spending some time in Astoria. The husband then left to go get her. Langel explained that when his friend left to get his wife, he stayed down on the beach to wait for them.
The day prior to the incident he had been parked on the beach and had been driving down on the hardpack as well as on the day of the incident. He explained that he’s driven on many beaches and understands where and where not to go. The night before he met up with his friends he had trouble turning around when the tide came up so he decided to head up to the road where he then turned around so he could face the ocean. However, a woman in a Prius then tried to veer around him and she proceeded to get stuck. Langel says he helped her get out and then, not wanting to get in the way again, he went back down to the hardpack to wait for his friends at about 11 p.m. – 12 a.m. He explained that at that time it was dark but it wasn’t foggy yet and the tide was out. He says he had no intention of camping down on the beach. He wasn’t even set up to do so.
While waiting for his friends, Langel fell asleep only to be awakened a few hours later by the surge coming up to his vehicle. Met with a foggy night and an overcast sky absent of moonlight, he went to turn and got caught in a tidepool. At that moment that he said he knew he was in trouble, gunned it and almost made it out, but then hit a bigger tidepool that stopped him dead in his tracks. At the same time, a wave hit and water started to rush into the vehicle and the battery causing it to start smoking.
Langel says he immediately called 911 where the dispatcher gave him a phone number to call a tow company. He then called the tow company who said they would send someone out in 15 minutes. However, Langel says he waited 45 minutes after his initial call and the tow truck still hadn’t shown up or even called back. Then his friend showed up and went out to the trailer and got in it, though Langel exclaimed to him that there was nothing they could do. Langel then called the tow truck company again and they told him that they couldn’t get anyone to come out. Langel says he was upset after being left under the impression that someone was coming out to help him, when in fact no one was. The waves continued to come in and out burying everything he owned into the sand except for two acoustic guitars he managed to save.
According to Langel, he suffers from some health issues, one being Parkinson’s Disease, that he says have led him to accelerate the hopes and dreams of his life which is to live the life of a troubadour. After retiring five years ago from a 14-year career in sales and marketing, he packed up all of his belongings and traveled and played music wherever the road leads him. Langel says that he usually stays in any given place two or three days depending on where he can get work. He says that it’s what helped him to pay his bills along with his disability check and supported him in pursuing his passion which is music. Langel is the father of four, now-grown children who he raised in Damascus, Oregon with his ex-wife.
Langel said he had a sign on his camper that said “No I’m not camping” because inevitably people would come up and inquire about his presence in any given area. “I camp where I’m supposed to be. I don’t camp in the streets and make a big mess. I clean up any mess which is why I’m staying here is because I don’t want to leave a mess [at the beach].” Langel has remained at the beach, collecting his scattered belongings as they wash up on the shore.
According to Langel, alcohol and drugs were not a factor in this incident. “I’m not a drug addict, I’m not a drunk.” said Langel, “It’s just a sequence of choices and timing. There would never have been an issue had the first tow company I called had shown up.” The Oregonian reports that a tow truck did in fact show up and attempt to save the rig from the ocean, but not until after several hours. Authorities are yet to comment on whether drugs or alcohol did or did not play a role in the incident.
The van and trailer were buried 3 feet in the sand before being completely removed from the surf Friday morning. The trailer was completely destroyed by the surf and the van was impossible to remove without being destroyed.