The Hoquiam Police Department reports that the body of the 35-year-old was located at one point on Thursday, however, the search continues on Saturday. A press release from the department detailed the morning of Wednesday, September 14, 2016, just after 8 a.m., a Hoquiam officer was dispatched to a suspicious vehicle call on Sanderling Lane in the Woodlawn area.
While en route to the scene, the officer passed a male subject riding a bicycle in the 1400 block of Broadway Avenue; the male was pulling a blue canoe on a makeshift trailer behind the bicycle.
The officer immediately recognized the man as a 35-year old Hoquiam male who was wanted on an outstanding felony probation warrant from the state Department of Corrections. The same male had fled from Hoquiam officers the previous evening in the 300-block of Broadway Avenue and escaped in the brush.
As the officer turned around, the male rode the bike south before abandoning the bike and trailer in the middle of the roadway. He fled into the heavy brush toward the Hoquiam River wearing a heavy coat, hooded sweatshirt, jeans and a large backpack.
As the officer gave chase on foot, he emerged along the river to find the suspect attempting to swim the river from the Broadway Avenue side to the Lincoln Street side. The width of the river in this area is approximately 350 feet. The suspect ignored the officer’s commands to stop and return to shore.
As he swam, the subject was quickly swept upstream in the incoming tide. This area of the Hoquiam River is subject to strong currents during tidal changes. As the male continued to try to swim across the river, he traveled upstream approximately 900 feet toward an abandoned railroad swing-bridge in the center of the channel. Unfortunately, at no point did the subject attempt to shed the backpack or heavy clothing.
Additional officers on the opposite riverbank observed the male approaching several pilings near the railroad bridge, but he was unable to reach any of them. The male was last observed slipping under the water approximately 150 feet from shore near the south end of the railroad bridge approach from the Lincoln Street side of the river.
Officers requested additional resources to launch a rescue. The Coast Guard dispatched a helicopter from Astoria and a motor lifeboat from Westport. The Cosmopolis Fire Department dispatched a rescue boat, the Grays Harbor County Sheriff’s Department sent two marine patrol boats and a citizen with a boat volunteered to assist.
The river was searched by boat and aircraft to no avail. The Coast Guard helicopter checked the shoreline up and down the river. In the subsequent hours, the river was searched with side-scan sonar and an infrared underwater camera. The current in the area was very swift which made the search difficult. There was no evidence the subject ever left the water. The search was suspended until divers could be requested to assist.
On Thursday, September 15, 2016, four volunteers with the Kitsap Underwater Search and Rescue Team responded to continue the search. They were supported by two marine patrol deputies in a patrol boat from the Grays Harbor County Sheriff’s Department.
The boat patrol and divers searched the river in the area where the subject was last observed. The drivers were confronted with strong currents, deep water and choking debris in almost zero visibility in the murky water. Divers had to swim and crawl over stumps, logs, pilings, cables and other debris near and along the area of the railroad bridge.
Due to the visibility at less than one foot, they conducted the underwater search by hand. The divers spent several hours in the water attempting to search the area. Unfortunately, the river in this area is covered with log jams and debris too hazardous for the divers to swim in, through or under. At one point, a cadaver dog was brought in and rode up and down the river in the sheriff boat in an attempt to narrow the search area.
In the late afternoon, the divers were attempting to check the base of the railroad bridge approach. One of the drivers was swept out toward the channel with the strong outgoing tide where he located the body on the riverbed. The diver was unable to raise the body or secure a line before the diver was swept downstream by the powerful current.
The Grays Harbor County Coroner’s Office was notified and responded to the scene. Coroner Youmans was briefed as to the search and recovery efforts.
Divers waited until 1730 hours for the current to lessen prior to slack low tide in an attempt to relocate the body. They searched for approximately an hour and a half to no avail. Although the current was less, the poor visibility and debris along the river bottom continued to prove difficult.
As of Friday, September 16, 2016, there were no dive teams currently available. However, the Kitsap County Underwater Search and Rescue Team will return on Saturday to resume the search. They will again be supported by the marine patrol unit from the Grays Harbor County Sheriff’s Department.
The subject is not currently being identified, but his family has been updated.