OAK HARBOR — Rescuers pulled a 10-year-old girl out of the mud at Dugualla State Park Sunday afternoon. By the time the girl was freed, the incoming tide was up to her shoulders.
The girl and her family were exploring the area, North Whidbey Fire Chief John Clark said, when the girl and her mother went further out into the mudflats.
They were about 30 feet from shore when the girl sank into waist-deep mud.
The girl’s mother called 911 just after 12:40 p.m.
“It can be a little embarrassing getting stuck in the mud, and you have to call for help,” Clark said. “But mom realized they were in a potentially dangerous situation.”
The tide was coming in. Low tide was 3.9 feet at 12:17 p.m. in the area, according to estimates from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association.
Rescuers had to hike in from the end of Sleeper Road for about a mile to get to the beach and then crawl and slide over the mudflats to get to the girl.
Two WhidbeyHealth paramedics were the first on the scene and began manually digging her out.
North Whidbey Fire and Rescue, state parks personnel and a Navy Search and Rescue team also responded.
“The tide was coming in and that made it all the more hectic,” Clark said.
By the time the girl was finally free, the water had come up to her shoulders, Clark said.
No one was injured, although they were all quite muddy and wet. North Whidbey fire crews helped the girl and the rescuers return to dry land. It was just after 1:30 p.m. when rescuers got her out.
Clark said he knew of some calls where people had gotten stuck in the mud, but he had not seen a call like this.
“This was different in that she’s stuck out there and the tide’s coming in — it’s a precarious position,” he said.
“The end of that is you drown. If she would have been out there by herself and not able to contact anybody that would’ve been a bad situation.”
Mudflats, also known as tidal flats, can be dangerous. Paramedic Scott Jackson, vice president of the union that represents Whidbey’s paramedics, spoke with the two paramedics who responded to the rescue. He said mudflats and low tide beaches can surprise people with how difficult it is to break free if they get stuck.
“Make yourself as light as possible, keep arms up and out of the mud, try to grab for something to pull yourself out, take deep breaths, and move slowly and deliberately,” Jackson said.
This story originally appeared in the Whidbey News-Times, a sister publication to The Herald.