LAKE STEVENS — A 42-year-old man was missing on Lake Stevens on Thursday night after a ski boat slammed into a two-person racing shell he was rowing.
Police and fire teams were on the lake searching for the man, Lake Stevens Police Chief Randy Celori said. The man was last seen in the water about 7:45 p.m.
As of 9:30 p.m., a Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office helicopter was using a thermal-imaging device to search for the missing man. Crews hoping for a rescue were being pulled back about 9:40 p.m.
The ski boat, piloted by a 17-year-old Lake Stevens boy, appears to have struck the rowing shell near a boat launch on the east side of the lake. The ski boat reportedly left the scene for a time afterward, Celori said.
The teen and two others were on the lake to engage in wake boarding. The accident’s cause is under investigation and glare from the sun on the water is being examined as a possible contributing factor, Celori said.
Debris was in the water near where the man went missing, making search efforts difficult. He may have lost consciousness in the crash, said Perry Putnam, a battalion chief with Lake Stevens fire.
“He never came up,” Celori said.
The Lake Stevens Rowing Club racing shell was upside down about 500 yards from the shore when crews arrived.
It was one of several racing shells that were on the water as the team practiced, Celori said.
The other passenger in the rowing shell, a Snohomish woman, 50, apparently was uninjured.
More than a dozen members of the rowing club’s crew team were waiting in a parking lot near the boat launch. The crew members, adults and teens, declined to speak with a reporter.
Shane Laplaunt, who lives near the lake, said he’s seen many close calls over the years.
“A boat is like a car; it is a lethal weapon,” he said. “I’m all for having fun but people need to be careful.”
Laplaunt reflected a moment, then added, “It’s just a darn shame.”
The accident is the worst on the lake since July 2009. That’s when a ski boat carrying 10 people flipped after being hit by a wave, tossing everyone into the water. The boat’s pilot drowned. Others in the boat made it to shore.
At the time, nobody could recall another fatal boating accident on Lake Stevens.
Map of Lake Stevens