MOUNTLAKE TERRACE — A hot weekend lured people to water across Snohomish County, and at least two people died from drowning.
One man died presumably from drowning in Mountlake Terrace, another near Woodinville and several people needed rescue from a popular and dangerous stretch of the Skykomish River near Index.
“Obviously we want people to enjoy the beauty we have up here,” Sky Valley Fire Assistant Chief Ernie Walters said. “But we want them to be safe.”
The man was with family around 7 p.m. when he swam out to an island in the middle of the 100-acre lake. After at least 45 minutes, his family couldn’t see him and looked for him, then called 911. South County Fire, Mountlake Terrace police and a dive team searched for hours but didn’t find him, Lowe said.
They found him about 30 yards from the beach in the water when the search resumed Monday morning. He was not wearing a life jacket or other personal flotation device.
Mountlake Terrace owns and manages Ballinger Park on the lakeshore, where there is a calm, designated swimming area. There is no lifeguard on duty.
Lowe said the lake isn’t too cold and, despite averaging maybe one drowning a year, is otherwise safe when people take precautions. He advised people to remain in the designated area near the park, stay sober, use flotation devices and have a plan with others if they swim out of view.
In Crystal Lake near Woodinville, a 71-year-old man’s family pulled him from the water Saturday afternoon, and attempts to revive him failed, the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement. The Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s Office identified him as Brian H. Speakes, of Woodinville. The cause and manner of his death are still investigation.
The medical examiner’s office had not released the identification of the 33-year-old man as of Monday.
Across the county, several people required help over the weekend as Sky Valley Fire practically set up shop at Eagle Falls on the Skykomish River near Index. The agency responded to five incidents there Saturday and Sunday, Walters said.
Around 3:40 p.m., they got a call that a man who was floating on the river above the falls was washed down over them and was pulled from the water by bystanders. When emergency medical responders arrived, he was mostly unresponsive until they were en route to an airlift pad in Gold Bar. They weren’t able to learn the man’s age.
“That was the first one,” Walters said.
They had to return to rescue the man’s 16 family members, including at least six adults who were across the river and afraid to return to the side closest to the highway, he said.
Just minutes later, a 56-year-old man was helped out of the river by Good Samaritans. He didn’t require medical transport after nearly drowning, Walters said.
Around 4:30 p.m., a 6-year-old girl almost drowned.
Social media videos of people going through the rapids or jumping into the river have increased its popularity, Walters said. On hot, sunny weekends they normally get one or two calls for help at Eagle Falls, but not four or five.
“The problem is it’s so packed and so busy at Eagle Falls because they have access to it, it’s visible from the highway,” Walters said. “The river’s running still cold because there’s a lot of ice melt and snow melt.”
He said people should wear life jackets if they go in the river and stay below the falls to avoid being swept over and into the water’s churn, which can bash them into the rocks below. People who have questions about the water can stop at Sky Valley Fire stations to ask for safe locations for rafting or swimming.
“We’d love to have them stop by and ask us prior to them going into a situation where they could potentially get hurt,” Walters said. “… We work up here and know this area well.”
Also on Saturday, four deputy sheriffs rescued a man who was stranded in debris on the Stillaguamish River, according to a Facebook post from Snohomish County Fire District 22 at Getchell, which deployed its drone to several swift-water rescues over the weekend.