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Divers Search For Swimmer Man Never Resurfaced After Jumping From Boat

Sat., July 27, 1996, midnight

A Bonners Ferry man is missing and presumed dead after he jumped off a sailboat into Lake Pend Oreille and never resurfaced.

Bonner County sheriff’s marine deputies and divers spent Friday searching the lake for Rick D. Atchley, 37.

As of Friday evening they still had not found the man.

Although Atchley was a poor swimmer and apparently prone to muscle cramps, he spent much of Thursday afternoon swimming off a 26-foot sailboat with two friends, said Bonner County Detective Gary Johnston.

Thomas S. Sumpter, 39, and James L. Thompkins, 25, both of Bonners Ferry, spent the day with Atchley.

About 7:15 p.m. Thursday, Atchley decided to go for a swim off the boat near Warren Island, west of Hope. He had recently eaten and had been drinking, Johnston said.

“He dove in and they (Sumpter and Thompkins) watched him because they knew he was a poor swimmer,” Johnston said. Atchley did a few somersaults in the water. “He wasn’t in any kind of distress at all,” Johnston said.

Then Atchley tried to swim underneath the boat.

“They went over to the other side to wait to see if he came up and he never did,” Johnston said.

Sumpter and Thompkins dove into the water and tried to find Atchley but were unsuccessful. The water in that area is between 35 and 70 feet deep.

Sheriff’s deputies also tried to find the man Thursday night, but eventually had to call off the rescue effort because of darkness.

Six divers were scheduled to comb the waters Friday evening. Sonar equipment also was used.

Johnston suspects the somersaults in the water may have disoriented Atchley. He then may have drowned after swimming the wrong direction and running out of air.

Atchley would be the third person to drown in Bonner County in the past eight months.

Last month, 18-year-old Joshua Q. Noble of Spokane drowned while swimming near Grouse Creek Falls north of Sandpoint. He had been trapped under a log.

In December, Kootenai County firefighter Richard Brown drowned while duck hunting on the Clark Fork River. His waist-high waders filled with water, pulling him under when his boat capsized.

Atchley worked for Crown Pacific and was the father of an 18-year-old son, according to sheriff’s officials.

, DataTimes

Tags: drowning

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