Three wet but happy boaters pulled from water

Published on Thu, Oct 24, 2002 by Meg Olson

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Three wet but happy boaters pulled from water

By Meg Olson

The Mayday call received by the Coast Guard last Wednesday night ended abruptly. “Oh, my God, here we go. We’re going down right now,” said the female voice, then there was static.

Forty minutes later, at 8:50 p.m., two coast guard vessels were in Semiahmoo Bay a mile outside Drayton Harbor and plucked two men and a woman from 55 degree water, who were clinging to the tip of their boat’s bow that was still peeking above the surface.

Leslye Asher and Dennis Shaughnessy had been diving with Wayne Kallmyer on his 40-year-old 17-foot Sabrecraft power boat when they started to take on water. “We had been out there all day, checking out equipment, and we dug out a few crab,” Kallmyer said. “We were pulling in the last pot and all of a sudden it was like there was a hole in the boat.” He jumped over the side and checked the boat’s plugs and keel as the water continued to pour in while Asher got on her cellular phone. He never got back in the boat.

“It was completely under water when the crew got there,” said Coast Guard representative Aida Cabrera-Vlasnik. “They went under when she was still on the phone. It took on water so fast they couldn’t tell where from.”

Kallmyer said the trio did not have life jackets on. “In between taking off our gear and getting dressed we had no time to get life jackets on,” he said. They decided to stay with the boat, its bow peeking above the water, to conserve core body heat. “It was cold. It was starting to be an issue,” he said. “If it sank we were going to swim but the longer we waited the less likely it was we’d make it.” The boat went down in approximately 17 feet of water, so the stern was likely resting on the mud at that time, he added.

When a Seattle-based crew in a 25-foot boat first arrived at the scene, “They shot right by and we screamed and screamed,” Kallmyer said. The boat turned around and brought the three aboard. “They were so great.
They brought out their own personal Mustang suits and put us in them.” he said, getting them out of cold wet clothes. “If we had been longer in the water things could have been bad.” They were given a medical evaluation by a Canadian Coast Guard medical technician before being brought into Blaine Harbor.

“We came around the corner and there were fire engines everywhere,” Kallmyer said. They were turned over to North Whatcom Fire and Rescue Services and the Medic One paramedics and evaluated for hypothermia, then released to go home.

“The EMTs brought the truck around and warmed it up for us,” Kallmyer said. “We were given hospital gowns and blankets to drive home to Bellingham in but were first escorted to Hill’s Chevron for something warm to drink.

“They were closing up and had no coffee but they made us some tea,” Kallmyer said. “I was so impressed with everyone’s kindness and professionalism.”

Kallmyer’s boat is floating again, but it isn’t his anymore. On October 17 he enlisted the help of Mark Gumley of M/G Shipwright Diver and raised the vessel, handing over the title as payment. He did recover some of his diving equipment.

Coast guard representative Aida Cabrera-Vlasnik said there would be an investigation into what caused the sinking. “Anytime we respond, we go into an investigation to see what led us there in the first place,” she said.

Kallmyer would like to know what happened. “Every night I go to sleep wondering what it was,” he said. “We didn’t hit anything, the plugs were fine, we had been out there all day. When we dove on it later we didn’t find anything. It just doesn’t make sense. For the life of me I can’t find a reason for it to happen.”

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