Port Angeles firefighters and a Clallam County technical rescue team place a litter onto a ladder track after pulling a person from a water tank at the site of the former Rayonier pulp mill on Thursday morning in Port Angeles. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Port Angeles firefighters and a Clallam County technical rescue team place a litter onto a ladder track after pulling a person from a water tank at the site of the former Rayonier pulp mill on Thursday morning in Port Angeles. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Man rescued from abandoned water tank

Unknown how or why he got there

PORT ANGELES — An unidentified man in his 30s was listed in critical condition at Olympic Medical Center on Thursday afternoon after falling into an abandoned water tank on the Rayonier property on the waterfront, the Port Angeles Fire Department said.

Firefighters, who were dispatched at about 9 a.m. to a report of a person stuck inside the water tank in the 700 block of North Ennis Street, found the man holding onto a pipe as he floated in the water inside the tank, unable to touch the bottom of the tank, which was estimated at 40 feet tall.

The man told rescuers he had fallen into the tank about an hour earlier. They said he showed signs and symptoms of hypothermia and had other injuries as a result of the fall.

Although the tank is located on the Rayonier property, it actually belongs to Rayonier Advanced Materials, a manufacturer of high-purity performance fibers located in Jacksonville, Fla., that split from Rayonier in 2014. Attempts to contact the company on Thursday were unsuccessful.

Joel McKeen, Port Angeles assistant fire chief, said Thursday that it appears someone on the Olympic Discovery Trail heard the man yelling for help. The person helped Port Angeles police officers locate the source of the sound, and fire department personnel became involved from there, he said.

“Once we saw the tank, we realized we needed additional help,” McKeen said.

The first people responding threw the man a life vest to keep him afloat, he said, adding it was unknown how or why he had ended up there.

The rescue “definitely took some time. I’d definitely say it was a collaborative effort from all the agencies involved,” McKeen said.

The hour-plus rescue effort involved 17 people plus a technical rescue trailer from the Port Angeles Fire Department, Clallam 2 Fire-Rescue and Clallam County Fire District 3.

Port Angeles Deputy Police Chief Jason Viada wrote in a Thursday morning email, “I anticipate he will be charged with trespassing.”

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Reporter Brian Gawley can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at brian.gawley@soundpublishing.com.

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