PORT ANGELES — An Everett man died when the boat he was operating struck an empty salmon pen in Port Angeles Harbor, city police said.
Robert R. Elliott, 62, and three passengers were just south of Ediz Hook when the 20-foot fiberglass boat they were on struck a salmon pen at about 9:45 p.m. Tuesday, Port Angeles police said.
The passengers — two Snohomish County men, ages 30 and 36, and a 14-year-old boy — survived the crash.
Elliott and the survivors were taken to U.S. Coast Guard Air Station/Sector Field Office Port Angeles.
“Preliminary information suggests that the boaters stayed out after dark, and then realized that the lights on the boat did not work, and that alcohol consumption may have been a contributing factor,” police said.
“The investigation is ongoing.”
The U.S. Coast Guard, the Clallam County Sheriff’s Office and the Clallam County Coroner Office were assisting police in the investigation.
Port Angeles Deputy Chief of Police Jason Viada said the boat sank to the bottom after it struck the salmon pen.
Police were working with the U.S. Coast Guard to raise the fishing boat and its motor.
“We need to get it out of there,” Viada said in a Wednesday interview.
“We need to examine it as part of the investigation of the wreck and the death, and also for the environmental concern.”
The collision occurred in an area south of the entrance to Coast Guard station, Viada said.
The two adults who survived were from Snohomish and Granite Falls.
Viada said he did not know whether Elliott and the other occupants were wearing life jackets.
It was also unclear how fast the boat was traveling when it struck the fish pen.
“It appears that one of the contributing factors was that the boat’s lights malfunctioned, or were not working,” Viada said.
“My understanding is there were buoys in the area marking the hazard.”
Sunset occurred in Port Angeles at 8:52 p.m. Tuesday.
A Coast Guard helicopter crew diverted from training after spotting a person on the boat attempting CPR on an unresponsive person, Coast Guard officials said. A rescue swimmer was lowered and swam to a platform on the fish pier to assist.
Cooke Aquaculture shut down its Ediz Hook fish farm in the area of the collision in May. The remaining Atlantic salmon in the pens were removed.
Cooke officials have said they wanted to begin raising steelhead instead of Atlantic salmon in net pens elsewhere in the state.
The Ediz Hook facility, which at one time was raising 690,000 fish, was required to be shut down by June 30 after the state Department of Natural Resources terminated the company’s aquatic lands lease.
The shutdown of the Port Angeles facility remains in litigation in Thurston County Superior Court.
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at [email protected].