CAMANO ISLAND — Investigators still aren’t sure what caused the fatal boating accident off Camano Island on May 7, but a number of factors appear to have spelled trouble that day, officials said Monday.
The vessel’s propeller was tangled in a shrimp pot line, the weather was bad and most of
the people aboard weren’t believed to be wearing life jackets, Island County Undersheriff Kelly Mauck said.
All of those factors likely contributed to the capsizing that ended the lives of Wilfred Whetham and Austin Anglin, Mauck said.
Rescue crews were told that waves had swamped an 18-foot boat, throwing all five people aboard into the water. The U.S. Coast Guard, Tulalip Bay Fire Department, the Everett Police Department and the state Department Fish and Wildlife all responded, as did the Island County Sheriff’s Office.
Whetham, 68, the boat’s owner, was pulled from the water and later died. Austin, 13, was taken by helicopter to a Seattle hospital. He died a few days later. Three other adults who were on the boat survived.
Island County sheriff’s detectives are making progress in their investigation, Mauck said. They want to be careful interviewing people who were on the boat, because they may be grieving or still processing what happened, he said.
Investigators have been pulling reports from all the agencies at the scene that day, Mauck said.
They can’t say the primary cause of the accident just yet, but it’s clear there were several contributing factors, he said. More information likely will come to light in the coming weeks.
It appears a rope attached to a shrimp pot had wrapped around the boat’s propeller at some point, Mauck said. There were lifejackets on board, but most of them were in a secure compartment when the boat capsized.
The weather was bad, and investigators believe several waves swamped the vessel.
The boat has since been released to Whetham’s family, Mauck said.
A funeral was held for the boy last week. A memorial is planned for 3 p.m. Sunday at Stanwood Middle School in the cafeteria. His family has asked for privacy. School officials didn’t return calls about the memorial Monday afternoon.
An obituary for Austin that ran in The Herald on Friday describes him as a wonderful young man who loved outdoor sports and had many close friends. He was a thoughtful and caring boy, it said.
Rikki King: 425-339-3449; firstname.lastname@example.org