In stormy seas, local firefighters assist in a sad duty

A multi-agency response to a report of a deceased person on a boat in Dockton Harbor took place during the afternoon of Friday, Nov. 4, as heavy rain and high winds impacted the recovery of the person’s body.

A multi-agency response to a report of a deceased person on a boat in Dockton Harbor took place during the afternoon of Friday, Nov. 4, as heavy rain and high winds impacted the recovery effort.

According to King County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO) spokesperson Sgt. M. Corbett Ford, KCSO received a 911 call before 2 p.m. on Nov. 4, with the caller reporting that he had gone to check on his friend on his boat, and found him dead.

KCSO Deputies, along with four firefighter/EMTs from Vashon Island Fire and Rescue (VIFR) as well as personnel from Tacoma Fire, Tacoma Police, the U.S. Coast Guard, and KCSO’s Marine unit, subsequently responded as the deceased person’s boat was out in the waters and not at a docked location.

The boat was towed back to a dock where the deputies could further investigate, according to Ford.

“There was nothing suspicious identified in or around the boat regarding the death of the individual,” Ford said, referring an inquiry about the identity of the deceased person and the cause of their death to the Medical Examiner’s office.

On Tuesday, Nov. 8, an investigator at the Medical Examiner’s office, reach by phone, said that the identity of the deceased person, a 57-year-old male, has not been released, as the office had not yet been able to reach any members of the person’s immediate family. However, the investigator said that the person had died of natural causes, due to a kidney infection.

According to Vashon Fire Chief Matt Vinci, Vashon firefighters who answered the call boarded Tacoma Fire’s marine boat, Destiny, along with a KCSO deputy, amid deteriorating weather conditions.

The body was found by VIFR firefighters and the deputy on board an approximately 60-foot-long Chris Craft vessel.

For Vinci, who was among the VIFR responders on Friday, the sad, challenging, and time-consuming duty of participating in the recovery of the body offshore highlighted VIFR’s current staffing shortages — a critical problem he is now working to address in his administration.

“During this incident, we had two additional emergency medical calls on the island and had to reassign our resources to cover the calls,” Vinci said. “One [of the additional calls] resulted in a transport off-island, which on average, takes our crew and aid car out of service for three hours and 10 minutes.”