UPDATE, 4:38 p.m. Thursday: The search by the U.S. Coast Guard for the missing Tulalip tribal police officer was suspended late Wednesday. But members of the Tulalip Tribes and various other government agencies were continuing to look for him, the Tulalip News reported in a Facebook post.
“The decision to suspend a search is one of the most difficult decisions the Coast Guard has to make,” Coast Guard Lt. Zachary Kearney said in a statement. “We search as if one of our own is missing. Our hearts go out to the family and friends of the missing Tulalip Tribal officer.”
Anyone with information on the whereabouts of officer Charlie Cortez is asked to call Sector Puget Sound at 206-217-6001.
Original story below.
EVERETT — A day after two Tulalip Tribes police officers were thrown from a boat by a rogue wave near Jetty Island, a massive search was conducted for one of the men Wednesday.
The missing officer was identified as Charlie Cortez, 29. He is presumed to have drowned, the tribes said. He would be the first officer from the department to die in the line of duty.
“As our search-and-rescue mission transitions into a search and recovery, we are heartbroken,” tribal Chairwoman Teri Gobin said in a statement. “Our people are connected to the water and we know the risk when we go out. Today we lost a good man, a father, brother and son.”
The boat’s captain, fisheries officer Shawn Edge, was rescued late Tuesday from the frigid water by Tulalip fishermen.
Cortez and Edge were on patrol in the Tulalip Police Department fisheries vessel when a surprise wave capsized the 24-foot boat around 8:30 p.m. They called for help, but the radio transmission was lost after first contact, according to the Everett Fire Department.
Through heavy rain, choppy water and gusts up to 45 mph, first-responders searched along Jetty Island and eventually found the overturned boat around 11:10 p.m. The officers were nowhere nearby.
Fishermen on a private boat found Edge, 39, floating around 11:45 p.m. near Hat Island — 3½ miles west of Jetty Island. He was wearing a life jacket and was hypothermic but conscious. He spoke with rescuers and was taken to the Tulalip Bay Marina for initial care, then to Providence Regional Medical Center Everett. He was recovering at the hospital.
Law enforcement agencies congregated at the marina Wednesday. In the distance, boats patrolled the waters under a slate-gray sky as a helicopter circled above. Wind and rain had died down considerably.
Camano Island Fire and Rescue, Everett Fire, Everett Police, the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office, Marysville Fire, Naval Station Everett, Port of Everett, Snohomish County Fire District 22, Tulalip Bay Fire and Tulalip Police aided in the search.
Combined, teams searched 835 square nautical miles by sea and air as of Wednesday afternoon, U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Brett Ettinger said.
Authorities believed they pinned down an approximate area where the boat overturned — in fairly shallow water, as the officers were trying to navigate back to the Snohomish River for shelter from the storm. They were broadsided by the wave.
Gobin said she appreciated the outpouring of help, which included 13 agencies.
“Our hands go up to the many fishermen and rescue workers who answered the call to find the missing officer,” she said. “In the face of tragedy, our community came together and will continue to come together as we take care of his family.”
Tulalip Police Chief Chris Sutter described Cortez as “a wonderful man and officer.”
Cortez was an enrolled member of the Tulalip Tribes.
“We are devastated by this loss,” Sutter said in a statement. “Tulalip Fish and Wildlife are often called upon to conduct searches such as this one. I know Charlie would have been there for you, and I can’t say thank you enough to the many individuals and agencies that came together to be there for him. The search for our missing officer will continue until he is brought home.”
Crews planned to keep searching through the night Wednesday if the weather stayed calm enough.
Reporters Caleb Hutton and Eric Stevick contributed to this story.
Zachariah Bryan: 425-339-3431; firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @zachariahtb.