Seattle Times staff reporter
A man became trapped underwater in the wheelhouse of a boat that capsized off Alki Point Friday afternoon, and later, his employer said he had died.
Three of his crewmates suffered hypothermia but survived, according to the Seattle Fire Department.
The company for which the men worked, Ballard Marine Construction, said in an email on Friday night that they would not comment on the capsizing.
“Out of respect to the family of our team member that lost his life, we will not be commenting at this time,” wrote Eric Muller, the company’s director of sales and marketing.
Spokesmen with the Seattle Fire Department and the Coast Guard said the incident began shortly before 2 p.m. when two boats from Ballard Marine Construction were in the waters off Alki Point conducting underwater-survey inspections.
“The weather turned, and they began to head north,” said Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Jordan Akiyama.
Akiyama said the pilot of the vessel in front looked back, saw that the second boat had overturned and called for help at 1:55 p.m.
Three of the capsized vessel’s four crew members had already been rescued from the water by the Coast Guard when Seattle Fire Department divers arrived at the scene in the Chief Seattle fireboat, according to department spokesman Kyle Moore. Those three — men reported to be in their 30s and 40s — were taken to Fire Station 5 on Alaskan Way where they were evaluated.
All had hypothermia and were taken to Harborview Medical Center. Friday evening, hospital spokeswoman Susan Gregg said they were listed in satisfactory condition with non-life-threatening injuries.
The fourth crew member was pulled from the wheelhouse of the vessel by three members of the Fire Department dive team, Moore said.
According to Moore, the effort was high risk; the dive team decided to attempt it because they believed there was a chance the man was alive, he said.
The team determined there could be an air pocket in the wheelhouse that could make the incident survivable, he said.
“They had to make a decision and decided it was worth the risk,” Moore said.
Divers “had to go underneath a capsized vessel with the boat bouncing in very rough water, with very rough conditions and lines hanging off the boat,” he said.
The dive team found the man inside the wheelhouse, he said.
Although there was, indeed, an air pocket, and the man was wearing a personal-safety device, he was unconscious and unresponsive when pulled from the little cabin and up to the surface at 3 p.m., he said.
It was not immediately known how long he had been unconscious, he said.
A rescue swimmer, dispatched with a Coast Guard helicopter from Port Angeles, swam the unconscious man a short distance from the boat to where he could be hoisted by the helicopter and flown to Harborview, Moore said.
He received CPR continuously from the helicopter to the emergency room, according to Moore.
According to the Coast Guard, the 30-foot commercial aluminum boat was towed to the Don Armeni Boat Launch in West Seattle and turned over to the Seattle Police Harbor Patrol.
Seattle police will be investigating the cause of the accident, according to Moore.
The Coast Guard reported that there were 3- to 5-foot waves and winds of 30 to 35 knots at the time the boat capsized.
Christine Clarridge: 206-464-8983 or [email protected]