‘I heard this guy say “help me”’: Couple rescued boater in explosion

SEQUIM — Cliff and Julie Houser had just returned home late Tuesday afternoon to the boat they have lived aboard for a year at John Wayne Marina when they were knocked to their feet, glass flying everwhere.

“All of a sudden, there was this big boom,” Cliff Houser recalled Wednesday morning.

They got up to see their boat’s side window blown out and then saw the floating debris of a cabin cruiser two slips over on C Dock, the hull’s wreckage sinking.

They rushed over.

“I noticed this boat was gone,” he said.

“I heard this guy say, ‘Help me,’ and my wife got the boat hook, and we got it out to him and pulled him to the dock.”

The man they rescued from the debris was Keith Bryant, 78, owner of the 38-foot William Garden-design wood diesel yacht Escale.

The boat was destroyed in the powerful dinnertime blast that rocked the normally placid marina on West Sequim Bay.

The explosion sent debris as far away as 75 yards.

Boat owners said they heard the explosion across Sequim Bay — even as far away as Blyn — and some boat owners were checking for possible damage at the marina Wednesday morning.

The Housers thought Bryant had received a broken leg, and both said they hoped he was alive and surviving.

He was listed in critical but stable condition at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle on Wednesday afternoon.

Warren Christensen, owner of the boat next to Bryant’s slip, said he did not know the extent of the damage to his vessel.

Windows were blown out, and there was other damage that he and his wife, Donna, were assessing Wednesday morning.

“We actually heard the explosion,” Warren Christensen said of the couple who live in East Sequim Bay across from the marina.

But the Christensens did not know the blast was next to their 38-foot Bayliner, the Mia Amori, until they received a phone call Wednesday morning from the harbormaster’s office.

Neither the Christensens nor the Housers knew Bryant, who the harbormaster said had only been moored at John Wayne Marina for about a month.

“I don’t know if it is worth fixing,” Warren Christensen said of Mia Amori.

“Look at that. There’s his door handle,” Christensen said, pointing upward at it hanging above his head.

He said he wondered how the blast did not kill Bryant.

Joe Bruneau, a Blyn resident who lives near the shores of Sequim Bay, was checking his boat, which sustained no damage, at the other end of the marina Wednesday morning.

Bruneau said he heard a thud late Tuesday afternoon while he was at home watching TV.

About 10 minutes later, he said he saw the bright-red glow of emergency vehicles across the bay in the direction of the marina.

“I thought, ‘What the heck was that?’” he said. “In fact, I thought it was thunder.”

________

Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Jeff Chew can be reached at 360-681-2391 or at [email protected]

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