Sister of Medford woman swept away by river speaks out

Medford, Ore. — As the Josephine County Search and Rescue team announces the suspension of the search for missing woman Tina Behneke, her sister Nicole Burnett is speaking out.

In an interview with NBC5 News, she describes Tina as a an adventurous spirit with a contagious smile.

“She’ll do what she wants to do, you can’t stop her, she’s a wildfire,” Burnett said. “My sister’s always been a rebel, a lot of people know her as the girl who’s so out there and confident.”

This past week, an adventure with friends took a tragic turn; Tina was swept away while trying to cross the Illinois River near Selma on Wednesday.

“I was told she was told not to, and she still continued to do so,” Burnett said. “And the river just took her, just like that, and it’s just so surreal.”

Now Tina’s family is trying to come to terms with what happened.

“She’s just always been my best friend,” Burnett said, tearing up. “Sorry.”

An unbelievable result of a fun outing that Burnett says is normal for the group.

“My dad, he raised us to love nature,” Burnett said. “With that loves comes respect.”

After three days on the water, the Josephine County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue team is calling off the search, due to dangerous conditions in the water. As for Tina’s family, they’re not giving up just yet.

“I know my brother is intent on staying on the search, and his group of friends,” Burnett noted.

Without an answer, the family is holding on to hope that they’ll see Tina again. But no matter the outcome, Burnett says her sister will always be with her.

“Her love for life, her love for God, her love for others and everything, just her passion, I want to spread that passion, and let people know that her, her fire will continue burning no matter what happens,” Burnett said.

The Josephine County Search and Rescue team will be keeping a close eye on the conditions. They say when it’s safe, they’ll be back out on the water.

Natalie Weber anchors Your Place @ 7, and reports for NBC5 News at 5 and 6. She is also the spokesperson for S.O. Close to Homeless, a community discussion on homelessness in our region, started by Access and NBC5 News.

Natalie began her career in journalism as an intern with NBC5 News during her senior year at South Medford High School. Following graduation, she was promoted to Producer for the morning news broadcast for NBC’s sister station, FOX26, then to Producer for NBC5 News at Sunrise.

Natalie took a break from news to work for the Medford Police Department as a Records Specialist. However, she missed the fast-paced environment of the newsroom. Natalie moved back to her hometown of Eureka, California to start her on-air career with North Coast News KAEF ABC23 before returning once again to NBC5 News.

Natalie attended Southern Oregon University. She enjoys spending time with friends and family, getting lost in a good book, and exploring Southern Oregon.

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