Former state rep. dies on South Whidbey lake

Former state Rep. Kip Tokuda went fishing on Deer Lake Saturday morning.

A heart attack claimed his life while he was angling from his small kayak.

“He was not submerged, he was still on the kayak,” said Robert Bishop, Island County’s coroner.

Tokuda was 66.

First responders arrived shortly after 11:30 a.m. Attempts by South Whidbey Fire/EMS, Whidbey General Hospital and a doctor on vacation in the area to revive Tokuda were unsuccessful.

Paul Busch, assistant chief of South Whidbey Fire/EMS, said Tokuda’s kayak tipped over after the heart attack began, sending him into the water. He was able to yell for help, however, and was heard by at least two people also at the lake.

Someone in a boat rowed out to him and tried to pull him from the water. Tokuda was unconscious at the time, however. During the attempted rescue, the person in the row boat also tipped over.

Another boater retrieved both people and took them to the public boat launch as first responders arrived. Busch estimates he was on the water about 15 minutes after the heart attack started.

“He was unresponsive from the beginning,” Bishop said.

“They had really good CPR and he was completely unresponsive.”

Tokuda, of Seattle, has a vacation home in Freeland. He was known for work in the House of Representatives as a champion of racial justice and youth empowerment from 1994 to 2002.

The Seattle Democrat, a son of Japanese American parents, was interned during World War II. He founded the Asian Community Leadership Foundation of Seattle and was a past president of the Japanese American Citizens League.

It was not a busy day on the popular lake in Clinton. Busch said he saw only the three boats on the water, the kayak, row boat and motor boat.

Though he did not drown, Tokuda wasn’t wearing a life jacket.

“We’ve had kayakers who’ve had heart attacks before,” Bishop said. “It just happens.”

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