The U.S. Coast Guard helicopter departs from the Keystone Spit portion of Fort Casey State Park after a false alarm involving a diver at the underwater park. A number of other emergency responders arrived as well after someone spotted the diver entering the water in jeans and a sweatshirt and was concerned when he didn’t surface. The diver had a wet suit underneath. Photo by Ron Newberry/Whidbey News-Times

Coast Guard responds to false alarm at Coupeville underwater park

A diver surfaced from the choppy waters near Fort Casey State Park Thursday afternoon and probably wondered what all the fuss was about.

The diver was greeted by a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter overhead and a swarm of other emergency responders.

At about noon, Central Whidbey Fire & Rescue responded to a report of a male who was missing after entering the water at the underwater diving park near the Coupeville ferry landing.

He was reported to be wearing jeans and a sweatshirt and apparently no wet suit, which caused concern.

When the fire department arrived and there was still no sign of the diver, the department’s marine unit entered the water and a Coast Guard helicopter was dispatched from Port Angeles.

Within a half hour, the diver surfaced, revealing a wet suit underneath his clothing. The diver was from Sedro-Woolley.

“He was fine,” fire chief Ed Hartin said.

“Everybody feared the worst,” said Jon Crimmins, area manager of Central Whidbey State Parks.

“What a weird day.”

The positive outcome mattered most, Crimmins and Hartin acknowledged.

“If we get a report of a person in trouble, we never question that,” Hartin said.

The Coupeville Town Marshal and an ambulance from WhidbeyHealth also were on the scene.

Pat Beach, owner of Whidbey Island Dive Center in Oak Harbor, got a call from a friend about was going on, threw his dive gear in his vehicle and drove to see if he could offer assistance.

Beach said he knew the man and described him as an expert diver.

Beach said some divers will wear clothing over their wet suits to keep the suits from being scratched.

(This story was originally published Thursday, April 13, 2017)