PORT ANGELES — Two Port Angeles Fire Department rescue swimmers entered Port Angeles Harbor to help a kayaker who had fallen in the water and had become unconscious from hypothermia.
The Port Angeles Fire and Police departments both responded to the incident that happened at about 1:30 p.m. Sunday.
The kayaker, Robert Aunspach, 31, of Port Angeles capsized in the harbor off City Pier. He called 9-1-1 from his cellphone after he was submerged in the water.
The line disconnected almost immediately after he called 9-1-1, police stated in a press release.
Aunspach was not wearing a life preserver or a dry suit. He swam toward City Pier, where Port Angeles police officers Luke Brown and Swift Sanchez threw him a life ring, which was tethered to City Pier by 20 yards of rope.
Aunspach got himself inside the life ring, and officers pulled him closer to the pier, but there was no access from the pier to the water 15 feet below.
Officers reported Aunspach “began to struggle physically from his prolonged exposure to the cold water.”
“Officers reported that the victim was exhausted, showing signs of hypothermia and was no longer responding to their voices,” the Port Angeles Fire Department stated in a press release.
Fire department personnel arrived about the time the victim made it to the base of a ladder that was about 15 feet above the water’s edge.
“The victim was now unconscious, non-responsive and slipping through the life ring,” the fire department stated.
Tyler Gage and Mike Ingraham, two Port Angeles Fire Department paramedics and rescue swimmers wearing dry suits, went into the water to keep Aunspach’s head above the water, firefighter/paramedic John Hall said in a Monday interview.
There was no way to get Aunspach onto the pier, so Gage and Ingraham swam 125 yards to Hollywood Beach, carrying Aunspach through the water.
Paramedics were waiting at the beach, where they treated him and transported him to Olympic Medical Center. Aunspach was treated and released for hypothermia, the fire department stated.
Hall said the water temperature in the harbor was in the upper 40s to low 50s.
Aunspach was in the water for 22 to 23 minutes, according to Port Angeles Police Sgt. Kevin Miller.
Miller said paramedics told Aunspach his core temperature was just 83 degrees when he was brought out of the water.