Lake Stevens couple aid in rescue after boat accident

EVERETT — A Lake Stevens couple set out Monday for a sunny picnic on Jetty Island.

They ended up likely saving one man’s life after a boating accident, and helping police look for the man’s friend, who now is presumed dead.

Recovery efforts for the second man’s body were expected to get under way Monday evening, officials said. Crews planned to use sonar equipment in the search of Port Gardner.

The Lake Stevens couple, Brent and Sarah Schilling, had been rounding the north end of Jetty Island in their inflatable Zodiac boat when they heard a man calling for help in the water, they said.

They pulled the man aboard just before 1:30 p.m., and called 911. He looked to be in his 50s and was turning blue with cold.

“He was extremely weak and exhausted,” said Brent Schilling, 34.

The man, whose identity wasn’t released, told the couple that his friend and boat were missing in the water. The Schillings looked for the second man but found no sign.

Emergency crews converged on the Everett waterfront for hours Monday as they searched for the second man. Rescue boats cut the water as police and media helicopters swirled overhead. Police blocked off much of the 10th Street boat launch for the operation. A small crowd gathered to watch.

Crews believe the rescued man and his friend were in a 12-foot boat that somehow tipped over, Everett fire marshal Rick Robinson said. It wasn’t immediately clear if the boat was motorized, or if the men wore life jackets.

The vessel apparently sunk soon after it capsized, Robinson said.

The Lake Stevens couple also were able to provide the crews with GPS coordinates to assist in the search.

The man who was pulled from the water was rushed to an area hospital, Robinson said. His condition wasn’t immediately available, but the man was believed to be suffering from hypothermia.

Waters in Puget Sound rarely break the mid-50s, even in summer, according to local marine law enforcement experts.

There were waves of up to two feet from the northwest at the time of the capsizing, Robinson said.

The Seattle Police Department, the Port of Everett and the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office also assisted Everett police and firefighters at the scene.

The U.S. Coast Guard deployed a small boat from its Seattle station and a helicopter from Port Angeles, petty officer Eric Chandler said.

The presumed drowning near Everett on Monday afternoon marks at least the 11th boating-related death in Snohomish and Island counties since 2008.

Officials have been warning folks for weeks about danger on the water as spring turns to summer. This past weekend was especially brutal for emergency crews in Western Washington, including multiple water and land rescues in Snohomish County. A memorial also was planned Monday night for Everett City Councilman Drew Nielsen, who died Saturday in a whitewater rafting accident in King County.

Safety tips

• Wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket at all times. Even good swimmers need to wear one; gentle stretches of water can have wicked undercurrents.

• Never use inner tubes and rafts designed for swimming pools.

• Know your limits; do not attempt a section of river beyond your skill level.

• Pay attention to weather and water conditions. Wear wool clothing or a wet suit and dress for the water temperature. If the water temperature and air temperature combined total 100 degrees or less, wear protective clothing.

• Enter cold water slowly.

• Avoid swimming near boat ramps or in boating areas.

• Avoid downed trees, snags and confluences.

• If your vessel capsizes, float on your back, feet together and pointed downstream. If you go over a ledge or drop, tuck into a ball.

• If you’re caught in a fast-flowing river or rapids, try to float feet first in a half-sitting position. Release your craft only if it improves your safety. Stay upstream, away from the boat.

Source: Snohomish County and state public safety officials

Herald photographer Dan Bates contributed to this story.

Rikki King: 425-339-3449;

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