Sequim man, coworkers help save canoers near Port Townsend

‘I’ve never done anything like this. It just had to be done.’

MARROWSTONE ISLAND — Several hours before two Chimacum residents went missing in Kilisut Harbor, three construction workers, including a Sequim man, helped save a father and daughter in nearby waters.

Lance Lestage of Sequim said he and his coworkers with G Little Construction were on Marrowstone Island installing a roof along Griffith Point Road at about 7:45 a.m. Oct. 9 when they saw two people rowing a canoe between Indian Island and Nordland.

He said they had been watching them row for a while, and they appeared to be crabbing.

“The second we saw them flip over, we ran to the beach,” Lestage said.

His coworker, Justin Taylor, found shovels, and the pair began paddling an 8-foot skiff on the shoreline while their foreman, Rod Barrow, called 9-1-1.

The pair battled the current, and it took them about 20 minutes to reach the unnamed father and daughter from Bellevue who were staying at a friend’s home.

East Jefferson Fire and Rescue representatives confirmed the pair were wearing life jackets but added being in the cold water could have led the pair to develop hypothermia.

Lestage said the father and daughter also were wearing rubber boots and likely couldn’t swim very far. They were “just trying to cling to the boat,” he said.

The father and daughter were given medical evaluations and found to be uninjured, so they were taken back to their home, fire officials said.

Naval Magazine Indian Island Engine 91 was the first to arrive on scene, followed by a medic unit from East Jefferson Fire and Rescue.

“I’ve never done anything like this,” Lestage said of the effort.

“It just had to be done. We didn’t think of our own safety. We knew they weren’t going to last in that water.

“If we hadn’t seen them, it might not have been good. If we had been at another job a couple of doors down, (we) might not have seen them.”

Searches continue for the two Chimacum men who are presumed dead after they set out just before 6 p.m. the same day to check crab pots in Kilisut Harbor.

The 12-foot skiff that Walter Mead, 59, and Sean Pickering, 42, had used was found the next morning washed up on the beach at Fort Flagler Historical State Park just north of the crab pots. The men are not believed to have been wearing life jackets.

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Matthew Nash is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach him at [email protected].

Jefferson County senior reporter Nicholas Johnson contributed to this story.

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