Swinomish crabber who drowned in Penn Cove identified

The crab fisherman who drown in Penn Cove last weekend has been identified as 51-year-old Joseph Thomas Sias of La Conner.

“He was very well known in the Swinomish tribal community,” said Island County Coroner Robert Bishop.

Sias was reported missing Feb. 12 after a Swinomish Fisheries patrolman found his 32-foot, bow-picker boat in Penn Cove. The vessel was unmanned but under power.

The initial search involved boats from several jurisdictions, a Coast Guard helicopter and divers, but it was called off Monday morning.

Bishop said boats from Swinomish Fisheries and the Swinomish police dragged Penn Cove Wednesday. He said the searchers used the coordinates from the crab boat’s GPS to trace its path. The fisheries boat found the body in about 90 feet of water.

According to Bishop, Sias had been wearing boots that probably filled with water and a lot of clothing that would have quickly become waterlogged. Sias was alone in the boat and wasn’t wearing a flotation device. His cause of death was drowning; there was no signs on trauma.

Ray Erps from Swinomish Fisheries found both the boat and the Sias’ body. Bishop said the body was brought by boat to Oak Harbor, where a crowd of about 60 people ‚Äî family, friends and tribal officials ‚Äî came from La Conner to say goodbye to Sias.

“It was a very emotional. Very sad,” Bishop said.


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