Crescent Harbor claims another victim
July 3, 2008 · Updated 1:40 PM
"Exactly a week after a father and son drowned in a boating accident in Crescent Harbor, a North Whidbey man succumbed to the same fate while trying to swim to his drifting boat.Marvin Searle, 57, was pronounced dead at the scene after firefighters pulled his body from the water Sunday afternoon.Oak Harbor Fire Department Chief Mark Soptich said Searle and a friend were boating in Crescent Harbor and beached the boat on a spit about 400 yards south of the Whidbey Island Naval Air Station wharf on the Seaplane base.The two men were digging for clams when they noticed the boat had drifted out into the water. Searle swam out to retrieve the 16-foot motorcraft, Soptich said, but disappeared under the water. The other man ran to get help, but the steep bank prevented him from going to a house. He ran down the beach and found a fisherman in a boat to help him. Soptich said the fire department got the call at 12:50 p.m. He said there were three rescue boats in the water looking for Searle in a very short time. The water rescue team from Island County Fire District 2 found Searle's body floating in the waves, about 250 yards from where he was last seen, and pulled him in at 1:19 p.m.The rescue workers administered CPR right away in the boat and transported Searle to a ambulance waiting on the shore. The ambulance paramedics continued to work on him, Soptich said, but eventually pronounced him dead.The Island County Coroner's Office concluded that he died from salt water drowning.Like the Sedro-Woolley man and boy who drowned last weekend, Searle wasn't wearing a life jacket. George Helland, 50, and his 13-year-old son Clifford were crabbing in Crescent Harbor with 21-year-old Brent Collins of Mount Vernon. Collins was thrown out of the boat in an accident. Shortly afterward, the boat overturned and father and son fell in the water, then disappeared.Collins was saved by a Navy officer who swam out to him with a piece of driftwood. Helland's body was found floating near Polnell Point. The boy's body wasn't found, even after an exhaustive search by the Island County Sheriff's Department, the Navy and the Coast Guard. Soptich said about 20 firefighters and medical personnel, including three rescue boats, responded to the scene Sunday in search of Searle. The tide was outgoing and the current was strong at the time. Soptich said it probably would have helped if Searle was wearing a life jacket when he swam out to the boat, but swimming in the cold Puget Sound is usually not a good idea. "