2 NAS Whidbey sailors drown while kayaking
The men were in 10-foot, open, lake-style kayaks, one wearing jeans and the other shorts. They wore recreational life vests. Although the air temperature was 70 Saturday afternoon, the water temperature was 52 degrees, and winds were blowing about 20 mph, Det. Ed Wallace said.
The two launched on the west side of the island about 10 miles south of the air station where currents from the Strait of Juan de Fuca are treacherous, he said.
No one knows exactly what caused them to capsize. The bodies and overturned kayaks were found Sunday morning. The cause of death was salt water drowning with hypothermia, Wallace said.
Both men were assigned to Electronic Attack Squadron 129 at NAS Whidbey: Aviation Machinist's Mate Airman Joseph Tindol Lee, 21, of Kingsville, Texas, and Aviation Machinist's Mate Third Class Vinson Cagzoo Ya, 25, of Sacramento, California.
The men had set out about 4 p.m. and expected to return before dark at 9 p.m., Wallace said.
Someone living on the waterfront bluff heard cries for help about 9:45 p.m. Fire department rescuers and a Coast Guard helicopter searched but found nothing that night, Wallace said.
People walking on the beach about 6 a.m. Sunday found Ya's body. Deputies found his kayak about a quarter-mile away.
As the coroner was recovering the body with a fire department boat, they found Lee's body in the water about a half-mile away, and his kayak was later found on the beach.
The men had fishing gear with them, but it's unknown if a halibut caused the accident or if one or both of them capsized in the wind or if one died trying to help the other. The deaths are a reminder to be adequately equipped for the waters, Wallace said.
"Their kayaks were made more for calm waters, not ocean," he said. Their life vests were a design that didn't keep the face above water.
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