On March 17, 1981, Sergeant Russell Yokum of the police department of Saint Helens, Oregon, was on patrol along Highway 30 near the Columbia River. The small town is about 20 miles from Portland. It was very cold that morning.
At around 4:03 a.m., Yokum noticed a bright light moving upriver. It was heading toward Portland International Airport.
Airplanes frequently passed through this area as they made their way to the airport. Yokum immediately thought that the object was an aircraft after seeing it, so he radioed his department. He then drove to Saint Helens to look at it. The light from the courthouse on the other side of the Columbia River was very clear.
Other law enforcement officials, such as Tom McCartney and Ricky Cade of the Oregon State Police, met with Yokum at the courthouse. By this time, Yokum had already been in contact with Donald Askins, who was in Ridgefield, Washington state, near Saint Helens. Askins told Yokum that he had spotted the light and was seeing it now. The light had been stationary over the river, which turned the area into a full-daylight.
Initially, the officers in Saint Helens thought that the light was floating. Askins, however, insisted that it was stationary. It was later revealed that the object was a manmade light that was being used by Sauvie Island.
The fog that night had created the appearance of a bobbing object. After realizing their mistake, the officers decided to look south. They saw the light Askins was watching. It was low and looked like it was standing out against the river. Only faint lights could be seen from this area.
The fog that evening had created the appearance of a bobbing object. After realizing their mistake, the officers decided to look south. They saw the light Askins was watching. It was low and looked like it was standing out against the river. There were only a few faint lights in this area at that time.
Askins heard the sound of the light, which was very loud. The officers then set up a portable tape recorder that was 18 inches from their radio. They also asked Askins to use his CB microphone to transmit the sound to them. He decided to do so by hanging his microphone from the window of his rented home.
The police then went to a nearby bluff, which provided them with an excellent view of the object. The footage recorded by the police, which was presented to the UFO studies center J. Allen Hynek, showed a fascinating and unsettling moment in the lives of people who were trying to understand the unknown.