Bellingham woman identified after lake death

OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK — Amelia Bethke, 30, was identified Monday as the Bellingham woman who died Thursday after becoming unresponsive while swimming in Lake Crescent.

An autopsy will be performed today, Clallam County Prosecuting Attorney-Coroner Mark Nichols said Monday.

Spokeswoman Penny Wagner said Bethke, an experienced swimmer and surfer, was in the lake at about 6:30 p.m. Thursday with a female friend who was diving underwater and coming back up again.

“She realized her friend was not responsive and she needed to pull her out,” Wagner said Monday.

The friends were 25-35 feet offshore at a turnout at milepost 225 on U.S. Highway 101.

Bethke, a former natural resource technician with the La Conner-based Skagit River System Cooperative, was known as Mighty Mouse for her physical strength and robust spirit, Restoration Director Steve Hinton said Monday.

“She was physically fit to no end,” Hinton said.

Wagner, clarifying her earlier report that Bethke had been “rescued,” said it has not been determined if Bethke was alive when she was pulled out of the water.

Bethke’s friend called 9-1-1 and performed CPR, Clallam County Fire District 2 and park rangers arrived, and Bethke was transported to Olympic Medical Center.

She was pronounced dead in the emergency room, Nichols said.

The incident remains under investigation by the National Park Service, Wagner said.

Jinhyun Kim, 25, a soldier based at Joint Base Lewis McChord, died of drowning at Lake Crescent on May 11.

Wagner said the body of Lena Lang, 35, is still being sought by park rangers after the Federal Way woman went missing on the lake on May 27, Memorial Day.

Wagner said she has been repeating on social media and the national parks website the dangers of swimming in the lake.

Hinton said Bethke rode her bike to work daily from Bellingham to Mount Vernon, getting up at 4 a.m. to pedal about 30 miles, until she left the organization in 2017.

“She just loved the outdoors and loved what she was doing,” he said.

“It’s heartbreaking.

“I’m shocked.”

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected] peninsuladailynews.com.

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