No one was wearing the only life jacket on board when a boat sank on Killarney Lake Sunday, leaving a 65-year-old man to drown, sheriff’s officials said.
Norman Watson Sr. of Kellogg died after spending more than an hour submerged in the 40-degree water southeast of Coeur d’Alene.
Watson, a Silver Valley miner, had been fishing on a friend’s 15-foot boat with four other people, according to a Kootenai County Sheriff’s report.
The five were trolling when the boat started to take on water about 3:20 p.m., according to the report.
The boat owner and pilot, James Lange, 43, of Kellogg said he believes the plug may have come out of the bottom of the boat, said sheriff’s Lt. Nile Shirley.
The passengers panicked, according to the sheriff’s report, and tried to swim to shore.
The boat’s stern sank to the bottom of the lake, leaving its bow jutting out of the water.
Loretta North, 42, and Alfred L. Ward, 38, both of Kellogg, swam about 175 feet to shore.
Other boaters pulled Lange and Ronnie Anderson, 39, of Kellogg out of the water.
Ward told police that the victim had been swimming behind him but disappeared without a sound.
Two divers from the Kootenai County Dive Team pulled Watson from the water about 4:40 p.m. He was pronounced dead later that evening.
Shirley said that only one life jacket was seen floating around the boat wreckage.
Since 1989, 18 people have drowned in Kootenai County during boating-related accidents, Shirley said.
The law requires that there be one life jacket on board for every passenger.
The life vests must be approved by the Coast Guard and must be the appropriate size for each passenger.
The law does not require that passengers wear the life jackets.
But Shirley said, “Having one on would have saved a life yesterday.”
Sheriff’s officials believe alcohol was involved. Blood from both the victim and the boat pilot is being tested for alcohol.