Renewed searches fail to find missing Jefferson County men

Walter Mead, Sean Pickering presumed dead after not returning from checking on crab pots in Kilisut Harbor

Sean Pickering

Sean Pickering

PORT TOWNSEND – Renewed searches in recent days have failed to locate the bodies of two Jefferson County men who are presumed dead after they went missing Oct. 9 while checking crab pots in Kilisut Harbor off Marrowstone Island.

Salish Rescue, a volunteer search-and-rescue nonprofit based in Port Townsend, on Saturday searched the nearshore close to where Walter Mead and Sean Pickering’s boat was found in the area of the Fort Flagler dock, said Libby Wennstrom, chair of the agency’s board of directors.

Nothing was found and the group planned to send a boat out today.

On Thursday, volunteers searched the north end of the harbor using a side-scan sonar system, said Erik Wennstrom, the nonprofit’s education coordinator and operations lead.

“We did a lot of good mapping with the sonar, so we know where the spots we can’t see are,” Wennstrom said. “We don’t have a playbook for this particular exercise, but that doesn’t mean we’re not going to keep trying.”

Also Thursday, members of the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office searched the Marrowstone and Indian Island shorelines of Scow Bay, Mystery Bay and Kilisut Harbor at low tide using a drone. Sgt. Brett Anglin said then that his team planned to conduct further drone searches in the week ahead.

Family members of Chimacum residents Mead, 59, and Pickering, 42, also have continued their daily searches of the shorelines by boat and by foot, said Joe Inciong, Pickering’s brother-in-law.

“My daughter and I and some of our close family friends have been going out by boat every day,” Inciong said Friday. “We have other family members searching by land wherever they can access the beach.”

Inciong said then that family members would extend the search Saturday into Port Townsend Bay and around Point Hudson, Point Wilson and Marrowstone Point using a 26-foot fishing boat that can handle waves better than the 14-foot aluminum boat he had been using.

Just before 6 p.m. Oct. 9, Mead and Pickering set out from the Mumby Road home of Inciong and Dawn Mead, which has beach access to Kilisut Harbor, to check on crab pots some 300-400 yards from shore, Inciong said.

As darkness fell and the wind picked up, Inciong and Mead went down to the beach to look for the two men but could not find them, he said. That night, a neighbor to the north reported seeing a capsized skiff in the water, Jefferson County Sheriff Joe Nole said.

At sunrise the next morning, Inciong found the men’s 12-foot aluminum skiff washed ashore on the beach at Fort Flagler Historical State Park. The boat was near the RV camping area along with float devices and other gear washed up on the sand spit.

Soon after, the sheriff’s office, the U.S. Coast Guard and Salish Rescue initiated searches of the area. The sheriff’s office and the Coast Guard suspended their searches later that evening, Oct. 10, while Salish Rescue suspended its search Oct. 11, Wennstrom said.

Family members have continued searching each day, Inciong said.

“I’m real thankful for those Salish Rescue guys doing everything they can,” he said. “This is really wearing on the family.”

Libby Wennstrom on Saturday urged boaters to wear life jackets.

“We had four calls this week with people in the water with no life jackets on,” she said.


Jefferson County senior reporter Nicholas Johnson can be reached by phone at 360-417-3509 or by email at [email protected]

Executive Editor Leah Leach contributed to this story.

Walter Mead

Walter Mead

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