Utah skipper of burned boat off Neah Bay tells of ordeal

Peninsula Daily News news sources

LEHI, Utah — Paul McIntyre of Lehi, Utah, had managed to escape the flames of his boat as it burned off about 4 miles off the coast of Neah Bay on Aug. 3, but he was dying, he told a Salt Lake City news radio station.

McIntyre was freezing to death as he awaited rescue in thick fog.

After being in the 46-degree water for nearly an hour, a strange feeling swept him, he told KSL Newsradio 102.7-FM 1160-AM, which published the interview at www.KSL.com.

“The strange thing is that I went from a panic state to feeling kind of comfortable about things as I got deeper into hypothermia,” McIntyre said.

He lost all energy and coordination, and his body seemed to be shutting down, he told KSL reporter Paul Nelson. He was beginning to die.

McIntyre was taking his boat from the Puget Sound to San Francisco, Nelson said.

The Coast Guard identified the boat as a 25-foot pleasure craft called the Dawn Trader.

McIntyre smelled gas, then saw flames near the steering area.

Boat burned fast

The blaze grew quickly.

“Flames just started shooting, not straight up but out everywhere,” McIntyre said.

“In fact, when I got out to the deck outside the cabin, a big cylinder of flames, like it was in a flamethrower from World War II, shot right at me. I was low enough that it missed me.”

Within 30 seconds of his jumping into an inflatable life raft, the Dawn Trader was in flames.

“I just had no idea it could burn that fast,” he said. “It was the kind of thing where if [I] stumbled getting off, I would have been dead.”

Kerosene tanks and other flammable items set off smaller explosions, he told Nelson.

“The heat was so intense that anything that was on that boat while it was up in flames for even one minute would have been cremated,” he said, adding that it looked like an “inferno from hell,” with plumes of black smoke and large red balls of fire.

His boat exploded, split in half and sank.

Life raft sinking

While his boat was sinking, so was his life raft, which had ripped and was losing air.

His legs were out of the cold water, but his torso was submerged.

He had sent out a mayday call at about 11 a.m. that day to dispatchers at Coast Guard Sector Puget Sound in Seattle, and after rescuers arrived about 50 minutes later, he stayed in touch with them over a handheld marine radio.

An MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew from Port Angeles and a 25-foot response-boat crew from Station Neah Bay looked for his life raft in thick fog that cut visibility to 100 feet.

The life raft’s onboard GPS was malfunctioning, and the man’s flares did not fire correctly, further complicating the search.

The air crew found him using the signal from the man’s handheld marine radio and the direction-finding capabilities of the Dolphin helicopter.

Also helping was a foghorn from a civilian vessel that joined the search.

McIntyre told Nelson that rescuers had him count to 10 several times over the radio so they could pinpoint his location.

But the cold water was getting to him, Nelson said.

“The last time they told me to count to 19, I said, ‘One, two, three, four . . .’ and I couldn’t get past four,” McIntyre said.

“Then I knew I was getting into deep hypothermia.”

Several minutes later, a Port Angeles Coast Guard swimmer jumped into the water, placed him in a rescue basket, and McIntyre was flown out by helicopter to Olympic Medical Center in Port Angeles.

He said he didn’t start to feel warm again until he was in the hospital.

He praised the rescue effort as highly professional.

First rescue

It was the first operational rescue at sea for the Dolphin aircrew’s aviation survival technician and flight mechanic.

U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell met privately with the Coast Guard helicopter crew when she toured Air Station/Sector Field Office Port Angeles on Friday.

This is the fourth time McIntyre has had hypothermia, Nelson said.

He’s still an avid seaman, but he won’t make any more solo trips, and he’ll travel in warmer water from now on.

“No more for me. Not on my own boat, anyway. I figure four times is enough warning,” he said. “I’m not going to give the cruel, cold ocean a chance to get me anymore.

Last modified: August 09. 2014 5:32PM
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