TULALIP — Six months after a rogue wave hit his boat near Jetty Island, Tulalip Tribes fish-and-wildlife officer Charlie Cortez is still lost at sea.
Presumed drowned, he is the first Tulalip tribal officer who has died in the line of duty.
Now, with warmer weather and with lower tides during the day, his family wants to renew the efforts to find him.
On Nov. 17, 2020, Cortez and fellow Tulalip tribal officer Shawn Edge were thrown overboard when their 24-foot fisheries vessel capsized. Through heavy rain, choppy water and gusts up to 45 mph, first responders found the overturned boat, but the officers were gone.
Fishermen on a private boat found Edge, 39, hypothermic but conscious, floating near Hat Island later that night — 3½ miles west of Jetty Island.
The ensuing search for Cortez has been extensive, covering hundreds of miles of sea and shoreline, including sloughs, harbors, around islands and at least one shipwreck. First responders from throughout the region, tribal fisherman and other volunteers pitched in to help. Boats, helicopters, underwater drones and specially trained dogs have been brought out to help.
To this day, there has been no sign of Cortez.
His mother, Paula Grenier-Cortez, said she gained renewed hope of finding him when she was recently at Mission Beach. It was low tide and she could see kids playing in the sand far out into the distance. The tides lately have been similar to the ones when Cortez was lost, his mother said.
“I just know we will learn something,” she said.
Maybe the tides will stir something up, Grenier-Cortez said, or at least the lower tides give people a better opportunity to search farther out. People have been asked to keep an eye out and report any clothing that may have belonged to Cortez. He was wearing a department-issued uniform, including a black stocking cap, a black zip-up bulletproof vest, a dark-blue shirt, a dark-blue coat, dark-blue pants, black boots and a black UnderArmour T-shirt. His name and a gold star is embroidered in some of the clothing.
With the bulletproof vest and the duty belt, Cortez likely had enough weight on him that he would still be near where he went down, according to his mother. She said search volunteers have been trying to figure out how far he drifted from his vessel.
“We’re hopeful that with all the boaters and beach walkers … that they just keep their eyes out, be watchful for anything that might wash ashore (or) that might surface on the waters,” Grenier-Cortez said.
Cortez left behind two children: a son, 8-year-old Dominic, and a daughter, 5-year-old Peyton.
He would have turned 30 on Friday.
On Saturday, the End of Watch Ride to Remember, featuring a trailer with the names and pictures of fallen officers, including Charlie Cortez, will make its way through Tulalip.
Report anything that may aid the search for Charlie Cortez to the Tulalip Police Department at 360-716-4608, or email email@example.com