Port Capt. Bill Michael

State Ferries crew member with ties to Chimacum honored for lifesaving action

PORT TOWNSEND — A Washington State Ferries crew member was honored on the MV Kennewick for his role in saving a man’s life earlier this month.

John McMillen, mate — who grew up in Chimacum — was awarded the Life Ring award Friday as the ferry plied its course between Port Townsend and Coupeville.

He used an automated external defibrillator to save the life of a 60-year-old man who had a heart attack on a Bainbridge-bound ferry from Seattle on

July 17.

McMillen said it was a team effort and that his quick thinking was because of WSF’s dedication to having a trained crew.

“We take it seriously and that was the thing that really made a difference,” he said.

“I’ve been on ferries all over the United States and I’d say hands down, Washington State Ferries is the best.

“Our training department really takes it seriously.”

Each crew member is trained to deal with medical situations until professional help arrives, he said.

As crew members helped the man, the captain acted quickly and turned the ferry back toward Seattle.

The ferry was only about two miles from Seattle when it started going back, said Bill Michael, port captain.

“They had just left Seattle,” he said. “He came in and let John know what was going on … (then) ran up to the wheelhouse,” Michael said.

That quick thinking allowed the man to be transported to a hospital about an hour sooner than if the ferry had continued to Bainbridge, he said.

“That’s what made a big difference,” said McMillen. “That’s outside the box.”

McMillen, who now lives in Kingston, graduated from Chimacum High School.

This is the third life-saving event on a state ferry this year, officials said.

There have been more than 60 instances of providing aid, including assisting disabled boats, rescuing swimmer and divers.


Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5550, or at jmajor@peninsuladailynews.com.

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