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Ferry riders help save jumper from Klickitat

Passengers aboard the Klickitat ferry helped ferry workers save a man who jumped off another ferry on the Keystone to Port Townsend run Saturday afternoon.

Susan Harris, spokesperson for Washington State Ferries, said a man in his 60s jumped off the Quinault ferry near Port Townsend as the vessel was heading to Whidbey Island. Witnesses reported seeing him overboard, in the water, at 2:32 p.m.

Crews on both the Quinault and Klickitat responded immediately to the emergency.

Coupeville Attorney Irving Rosenberg was on the Klickitat with his two children, Todd and Sydney. He said the ferry captain announced over the intercom that “all hands report to station.” The ferry stopped “directly across from the other ferry boat” and the crews lowered the life boat into the water. The smaller life boats — one from each ferry — were searching far away when the ferries started moving again.

Then Rosenberg spotted something in the water. “All of a sudden we start yelling,” he said, “because we see a head and this body floating by our boat.”

According to Rosenberg, the passengers were “in a fevered pitch,” screaming for the life boats to return and pull the man out of the water. Crew members on the ferry threw life preservers to the man, but he was unable to grab hold. But they could tell the man was still alive because he put his hands up.

The life boats finally sped back to the Klickitat, Rosenberg said, but they were on the wrong side of the boat. “You know in an emergency when everything seems to go wrong?” he said. “That’s what it was like.”

The rescuers finally got to the man and pulled him out of the water. The boat with the man was then winched up onto the Klickitat since the ferry was heading to Port Townsend, where an ambulance was waiting.

After the man was safety on board, the captain returned to the intercom and thanked the passengers for helping with the rescue.

“Everyone gave themselves a round of applause,” Rosenberg said. “It was very exciting and everyone on the boat felt they were part of the rescue.”

Although the rescue may have seemed to take a long time to observers, Harris said only 11 minutes elapsed from the report of a man overboard until the time he was pulled into a boat. “It doesn’t take very long to rescue someone,” she said.

Harris said the “jumper” walked onto the Quinault alone and apparently tried to commit suicide. The man is expected to recover.

According to Rosenberg, it was a memorable ferry ride for him and his family. “I was standing next to a woman who was telling her child, “Don’t stare, that’s a human being,’” he said. “I agreed and started to walk back when I see my son, three feet away, snapping photos.”

“It was more scary than anything,” Todd Rosenberg said.

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