Three members of a four-man Coast Guard rescue crew died before dawn Wednesday when their boat capsized en route to aid a sailboat in 25-foot seas and 40-knot winds near this Pacific coast community.
The Northern California couple aboard the foundering sailboat were retrieved by a helicopter dispatched from Coast Guard Air Station Port Angeles, about 60 miles east.
The fourth Coast Guard crew member, Seaman Apprentice Benjamin Wingo, was rescued from the base of a cliff on James Island, about half a mile from this Olympic Peninsula town, said Coast Guard spokeswoman Lt. Martha LaGuardia in Port Angeles.
Wingo, 19, of Bremerton, was taken to nearby Forks Community Hospital for treatment of a broken nose and cuts on his face. Wingo declined to discuss the tragedy as he left the hospital Wednesday.
The crew’s 44-foot, steel-hulled boat capsized as they sped to the site of a sailboat in trouble at the mouth of the Quillayute River, about 115 miles west of Seattle. It was one of two La Push-based motor lifeboats dispatched to help the Gale Runner, reported to be taking on water at 12:35 a.m.
One of the rescue boats crossed the river bar safely, but communications with the other were lost, LaGuardia said. A red distress flare was spotted at 12:55 a.m., and four more flares were seen 15 minutes later as the crew on the surviving rescue boat tried to locate their missing counterparts, she said.
The couple aboard the Gale Runner were hoisted off before it wrecked on the rocks, said LaGuardia, adding that she did not know where the boat was based.
The couple did not want their names released, hospital spokeswoman Jan Hays said. The man was treated for hypothermia and released, while the woman was treated and observed overnight. She was released Wednesday.
Four Coast Guard helicopters searched through the night for the missing crew. Possible sightings with infrared radar were confirmed after daylight.
The dead Coast Guardsmen were identified as Seaman Clinton P. Miniken, 22, of Snohomish, Wash.; Petty Officer 2nd Class David A. Bosley, 36, of Coronado, Calif.; and Petty Officer 3rd Class Matthew E. Schlimme, 24, of Whitewater, Mo.
“We’re in the business of saving lives and it’s certainly very sad and felt deeply … when our own are lost,” LaGuardia said.
Miniken was found on First Beach, north of La Push. He showed no vital signs but was given CPR and rushed to the hospital in Forks. The other two were recovered from rough seas near the mouth of the river.
All four men were wearing insulated flotation gear, said Lt. Marc Sanders in Seattle. They also were wearing crash helmets, a Coast Guard release said.
Their boat was found aground on James Island, where Wingo was rescued, Sanders said.
Until an investigation is conducted, “we really can’t speculate about this particular incident,” said Petty Officer Steve Carleton in Seattle.
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