Seattle police say a man who spent an hour in the waters of Elliott Bay Marina after falling in Monday night is alive because of the actions of officers and a marina employee.
The 67-year-old man, who works at the Seattle marina and lives aboard his boat on J dock, fell into the water as he was about to step onboard late Monday evening. A marina guard who’d seen the man heading back to his boat earlier was making his security rounds around 12:30 a.m. when he heard someone calling for help. Earlier, the guard had seen the coworker heading back to his boat.
The guard began searching for the source of the calls for help and heard the person yelling, “Help me, Bill!”
Thinking the calls might be coming from his coworker, the guard ran down to the end of the dock, where the man’s board is moored. Arriving at the slip, he saw his friend in the water, in obvious distress.
The guard immediately called 911 and reported that he was struggling to get the man out of the water. He also advised that officers would need to force open the locked door at the head of the dock to gain access.
Three officers arrived at the marina soon after and had to break the heavy glass security window at the dock gate. They were able to push the window open far enough to allow an officer to crawl through and open the door from the other side.
Once inside, the officers ran to the end of the dock, where the guard was struggling to keep his coworker’s head above water. The four managed to rescue the man, who was unresponsive and had a three-inch gash on his forehead.
The officers began treating the man for hypothermia, using blankets and a sleeping bag to keep him warm until a Seattle Fire Department crew arrived. Though the man was slipping in and out of consciousness, he was able to tell officers that he thought he slipped and fell as he was attempting to step onto his boat. He believes he hit his head on the dock as he fell backward into the water.
Fire crews arrived and stabilized the man, then took him to Harborview Medical Center for treatment. He is believed to have been in the water for close to an hour before the security guard heard his cries for help.
Elliott Bay Marina Harbormaster Brian Kaloper said the employee was released from the hospital on Tuesday morning and is recovering.
“He’s just banged up and a little sore,” he said. “He’s doing just fine.”
Seattle Fire Department Lt. Sue Stangel said the man was able to survive by holding onto the dock until help arrived, though he wasn’t able to pull himself out of the water. She praised the security guard for his actions.
“That employee saved a life,” she said.
Heidi Hackler, who lives aboard her sailboat at the marina, said she and her husband were home Monday night and noted that the wind had been gusting through the marina earlier in the evening and then died down.
The change in weather was likely instrumental in the employee surviving, she said, particularly since the man’s boat is located almost at the end of a long dock.
“When it’s blowing 25, you can’t hear someone yelling,” she said. “He was so lucky the wind died, otherwise there’s no way that security guard would have heard him yell.”