An Oak Harbor man died after a boat capsized in Crescent Harbor June 30.
Mike Mosbrooker, an 80-year-old Oak Harbor resident, said he and his longtime friend, Ernie Ghezzi, 72, were crabbing in the northeast corner of Crescent Harbor at around noon when they lost the engine.
He didn’t know it at the time, Mosbrooker said, but a line got fouled in the prop of the 16-foot boat. The boat was broadside to the waves — the wind had picked up — and it wasn’t long until the boat capsized, he said.
Mosbrooker said he was able to climb on top of the upside-down boat while Ghezzi held on to the side of the boat; both men were wearing life jackets.
The area in which the boat flipped is relatively secluded because it’s near the Navy’s survival training area where there are no houses, according to the sheriff’s office.
Mosbrooker said he eventually could no longer hold on in the cold water and decided to make for shore.
“I saw him once or twice after that,” he said of his friend.
“We were drifting in the same general direction.”
Mosbrooker floated on his back and kicked until he finally made it to dry land. He estimates that he spent two hours in the water.
“I had to crawl over rocks,” he said, “and laid there for awhile because I couldn’t walk.”
After regaining some strength, Mosbrooker walked down the rocky beach.
He said he found the boat about 200 yards down the shore but Ghezzi was nowhere in sight.
Mosbrooker said he continued on for about two miles and found people who called 911; it was about 5:30 p.m.
Ghezzi’s body was found on the shore.
First responders with North Whidbey Fire and Rescue performed CPR and the Coast Guard transported him to WhidbeyHealth Medical Center, but medical personnel were unable to revive him, according to Island County Coroner Robert Bishop.
Chris Garden with the Island County Sheriff’s Office said the weather got rough pretty quickly Sunday, which isn’t unusual for Whidbey.
North Whidbey Fire and Rescue responded to five marine calls. Garden said he hopes the tragedy will remind people to be mindful on the water.
“The current can change and the weather can change rapidly in the waters around Whidbey,” he said.”
“That’s why people need to pay attention,” Garden said.
As for Mosbrooker, he said he’s feeling “survivor’s guilt” over the death of his good friend and next-door neighbor.
“I made it and he didn’t and it bothers the hell out of me,” he said.
The last thing Ghezzi said to him, Mosbrooker said, was “Mike, how are you doing?”
“That’s the kind of guy he was,” he said. “It was always, ‘What can I do for someone else?’”