Oak Harbor tour boat operator aids in Deception Pass rescue

“He was just in a really bad spot. He shouldn’t have been out there.”

A tour boat operator who lives in Oak Harbor helped save a man’s life after his boat capsized in Deception Pass Saturday night.

Deception Pass Tours, a company that offers sightseeing and whale-watching tours, alerted rescuers of a man on the rocks on the Whidbey Island side of Deception Pass at 7:30 p.m.

The Sedro-Woolley man, in his 50s, left Cornet Bay on North Whidbey earlier that day to go fishing near West Beach, according to North Whidbey Fire and Rescue Chief John Clark.

When the man returned to Deception Pass, he found that the conditions had changed, and his 17-feet long boat capsized. Rescuers described it as looking similar to a kayak and a canoe, but noted it had a motor on it. The current was flowing at about 9 knots, Clark said.

Brett Ginther, owner of Deception Pass Tours, said he saw the man going through the pass before he went in the water.

“He was just in a really bad spot,” Ginther said. “He shouldn’t have been out there. He was already up really close to the rocks trying to make his way through.”

When Ginther turned around to check on the boater, the man was in the water.

“It’s a treacherous spot right there,” he said. “That’s why I kept looking back.”

Ginther said the man made it to shore, but was trapped between the cliff and the water. The tour boat couldn’t get to the man because of the rocks, but stayed with him until rescuers arrived and rescued him. The man was uninjured and rescuers were able to retrieve his boat.

Terica Ginther, Brett’s wife and co-owner of the tour boat company, said it was not the first time her husband had seen a boater go into the water.

“About 10-20 times a year he will actually rescue these kayakers, or people who are just unaware of their surroundings,” she said.

Terica Ginther said the man in the recent rescue would not let go of his boat, which is common in similar incidents.

“It puts rescuers in these really dangerous situations,” she said.

The man did not have a cell phone or other notification device on him, Clark said, which was a concern.

Boaters should always check conditions before heading out and know they can change quickly, he said. They should also keep a notification device to use in an emergency and let someone know where they are going and when they will return.

This story originally appeared in the Whidbey News-Times, a sister publication to The Herald.

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