U.S. Coast Guard audio excerpt from the actual rescue case (unabridged audio here)
The following events are taken verbatim from the official USCG administrative investigation, interviews with witnesses and subject matter experts, and Dr. Dennis Noble’s book. Times are specified when known or approximated and listed as “__:__” when not precisely known.
U.S. Coast Guard (CG) Station Quillayute River in La Push, WA is the next station north of CG Station Grays Harbor. On 11-12 February, 1997:
-Station Quillayute River had a BMCM Officer in Charge (OIC) and BM1 Executive Petty Officer (XPO).
-Station Quillayute River had two 44-foot motor lifeboats (MLB).
-Station Quillayute River reported to Group/Air Station Port Angeles, WA.
-A hazardous river bar crossing was required to get into the harbor at La Push, WA.
-Station Quillayute River had a set of stadium-like “bar lights” fixed on James Island next to the bar for night transits. In February 1997, they were inoperative after a storm in October 1996 that blew down the power lines supplying them with electricity.
-Station Quillayute River had an Officer of the Day (OOD) which reported to a Senior Duty Officer (SDO).
-Station Quillayute River had a 10-person duty section comprised of ready boat crewmembers, a watchstander, and several additional personnel.
-The GALE RUNNER, a 31-foot sailboat (1) was transiting from San Francisco, CA to Bremerton, WA with a crew of two.
-Dr. Dennis Noble, a retired Coast Guard Senior Chief Petty Officer and notable history author, reported to the station for a few days to stay on board while researching a book he was writing on lifeboat stations.
GALE RUNNER is traveling north from San Francisco, CA to Bremerton, WA and stops in Westport, WA.
Crewmembers Kenneth Schlag and Marcia Infante stop into USCG Station Grays Harbor to obtain the weather forecast. They decide to continue north along the Washington coast and get underway.
FA DaMello assumes the Station’s communications watch until 07:00 on 12 February.
FA DaMello receives the updated National Weather Service forecast which notes that a Gale Warning is in effect and calls for NW wind 35 knots with gusts to 40 knots and seas building to 14 feet overnight. For 12 February, the next day, the forecast predicts NW wind 30 knots and combined seas 18 feet.
The Senior Duty Officer (SDO), BM1 Placido gets together with BM2 Bosley who is the Officer of the Day (OOD), and drives to the station’s bar overlook to observe last light bar conditions. He observes that seas aren’t bad and he feels comfortable going home on recall for the night, about 15 minutes away.
He later said, “From the look of the bar and what Bosley had told me about the weather, there was no need for me to stay aboard.”
BM2 Bosley views the National Weather Service forecast on the computer and logs his initials, “DAB,” to acknowledge it.
GALE RUNNER begins to encounter heavy weather and decides to head for the Quillayute River bar entrance to seek safe harbor.
BM2 Bosley does his evening round with MK3 Schlimme and FN Matthews and drives out to the bar overlook to check things out. FN Matthews recalls BM2 and MK3 saying that they hoped they didn’t get a case that night.
Officer in Charge (OIC) BMCM LaForge returns from an appointment in Port Angeles and checks in with the OOD at the station. BM2 Bosley does not pass the 1640 weather forecast, but tells the OIC that the weather is supposed to pick up overnight.
Without knowing of the forecast details, the OIC agrees with the OOD that the ready boat surfman can remain on recall for the night. The OIC leaves for his home, 5 minutes away from the station.
Dr. Noble finishes his conversations with the crew and goes to bed.
BM2 Bosley calls the SDO, BM1 Placido, who remembers Bosley saying, “Nothing [is] going on. The winds [have] picked up a little bit… the weather [is] supposed to pick up later [tomorrow].”
FA DaMello passes the station’s radio guard to Group PA for the night and sets up the cot to sleep in the communications room.
GALE RUNNER hails Station Quillayute River on VHF channel 16 to obtain a bar report.
Telecommunications Specialist Third Class (TC3) Marshall at Group Port Angeles answers for Station Quillayute River, consults the status board and reports, “no restrictions.”
FA DaMello wakes up to the radio traffic between Group Port Angeles and the GALE RUNNER and notices high wind outside. The Station’s anemometer is registering gusts of 50 knots. On his own initiative, DaMello remembers the 1640 forecast for 18-foot seas and intercoms TC3 Marshall at Group Port Angeles to tell her about the wind he’s seeing and the forecast for seas. He says he thinks that if the OOD knew about the 50-knot gusts, then he would put a restriction on the bar.
Group Port Angeles watchstander TC3 Marshall tells FA DaMello to hail the GAIL RUNNER and pass them the current weather conditions.
FA DaMello hails the GALE RUNNER and asks, “Are you crossing the bar?”
GALE RUNNER crewmember Marcia Infante replies, “Affirmative. We are at the entrance now.” She doesn’t pass a GPS position.
FN DaMello passes the latest wind measurement and advises the GALE RUNNER that the bar could be breaking. Next, FA DaMello calls BM2 Bosley in the OOD room to brief him of the weather and situation.
BM2 Bosley comes into the communications room and asks FA DaMello if he has the GALE RUNNER’s position. FA DaMello says that the caller has not relayed their position. BM2 Bosley tells FA DaMello to call the GALE RUNNER and obtain their position.
BM2 Bosley phones SDO BM1 Placido at his home and informs him of the radio call and that he thinks that it’s a bad idea for the sailboat to come across the bar. BM1 Placido asks if he has a position for the sailboat. To keep listening for information from the radio, BM2 Bosely places the SDO on hold.
FA DaMello asks the GALE RUNNER for their position.
GALE RUNNER, Crewmember Kenneth Schlag is steering the sailing vessel with Marcia Infante on the radio, replying to the station’s request for a position. She begins, “We’re at 47-51…”
Suddenly, the sailboat is struck by a rogue wave, knocked down, and dismasted. The radio antenna is damaged and Kenneth Schlag is thrown overboard. He is tethered with a safety harness and manages to pull himself back onboard.
Portholes are blown out by the wave and the GALE RUNNER begins taking on water.
FA DaMello tries again to hail the GALE RUNNER, “Sailing vessel, this is Quillayute River on 22, over.”
Approx. 00:26, First Mayday Call
Marcia Infante breaks the silence on the radio with, “MAYDAY! MAYDAY! THIS IS SAILING VESSEL GALE RUNNER! U.S. COAST GUARD! WE’RE TAKING ON WATER!”
Marcia Infante repeats her mayday calls every few minutes. She looks at the GPS plotter to reference the boat’s position, but sees a black screen and figures that the GPS was destroyed in the capsize.
In fact, the GPS is in screensaver mode and she could have pushed any button to bring the chart and GPS position back up on the display.
FA DaMello only hears static after the mayday call. Group Port Angeles also hears static and suggests Station Quillayute River switch radio antenna sites. FA DaMello says that he has already tried that.
TC3 Marshall at Group Port Angeles hears the mayday calls and continues to ask for the caller’s position. She calls the Group Duty Officer in his duty room and briefs him of the situation.
Initially, The Group Duty Officer wonders if the call might be a hoax, but notifies the Group Operations Officer, CDR Raymond Miller, who is working late in his office.
BM2 Bosley has now gathered this key information in a very short period: there is a sailing vessel that says it is at the entrance to the bar, it has begun taking on water, and the Coast Guard has lost communications with it.
BM2 Bosley hits the search and rescue (SAR) alarm and pipes, “Ready boat crew lay to the ready boat! Sailboat on the bar taking on water.”
He takes the SDO phone call off hold and says, “I’m heading for the door.”
BM1 Placido replies to BM2 Bosley’s statement, “Call Master Chief [the OIC]. I’m right behind you,” and gets in his car to drive back to the station.
Later, BM1 Placido said that, “If I had known how bad the bar was, I would have told Bosley to wait until I could get to the station.”
SA Wingo runs out of his barracks room with SN Miniken and down to the boat.
Group Port Angeles watchstander TC3 Marshall passes that the Group has received more radio transmissions from a frantic woman who doesn’t understand Station Quillayute River’s instructions.
The Group duty officer briefs the Group Commanding Officer, CAPT Volk, at the direction of the Group Senior Duty Officer. The Group is still trying to gather information and is not yet trying to launch a helicopter.
FA DaMello calls and notifies BMCM LaForge of the case and BMCM LaForge comes back to the station from his home.
FA DaMello recalls the second boat crew in accordance with the unit’s standing orders.
BM2 Bosley is one of the first down to the ready boat, CG 44363, and urgently wants to get underway. He runs back up to the station and yells, “Where is my crew?!”
BMCM LaForge stops at the bar overlook to scan for signs of a sailboat before arriving back at the Station. He notes that there is reduced visibility, but that he can still see the “Q” buoy a mile from the bar. Wind is 30 knots with stronger gusts.
BM2 Bosley gets CG 44363 underway for the SAR case. BM2 Bosley doesn’t brief his crew on the mission and the four are all wearing Mustang anti-exposure suits.
If he believed the sailboat taking on water was on the bar, he would have thought the situation was very urgent.
SA Wingo hands out pyro vests and SN Miniken hands out surf belts as the boat gets underway. Wingo and Miniken clip into D-rings and later, SA Wingo said that he had presumed MK3 Schlimme clipped in, but he wasn’t certain if BM2 Bosley wore his belt or clipped it in.
No one on CG 44363 puts on a helmet, even though policy requires them to and no one speaks up about it. Bosley’s helmet is clipped behind his coxswain chair and everyone else’s helmets are stowed below in their SAR bags.
BMCM LaForge is still at the overlook and observes CG 44363 leaving the boat basin. He does not see its navigation lights energized.
The OIC radios the CG 44363 and informs them that he does not see a sailboat in the immediate area and orders BM2 Bosley, “To check out the bar to see if they could cross.”
The OIC heads back to the station.
Group watchstander TC3 Marshall intercoms Station Quillayute River to have the ready boat standby because they think the case might be a hoax. There has been a rash of hoax calls with a young voice in northwestern Washington over the past two weeks.
MK3 Schlimme comes over to the starboard side of the CG 44363 as it gets underway, adjusts the radar, and then returns the engineer’s spot on the port side of the coxswain. While outbound, he reminds BM2 Bosley to not let the lube oil pressures get too high.
Bosley replies, “Yeah, I got it.”
SN Miniken operates the port spotlight and SA Wingo is ordered by BM2 Bosley to man the starboard spotlight and to illuminate Wash Rock so that the lifeboat can stay on course.
Near Wash Rock, MK3 Schlimme yells at Bosley, “Let’s get the fuck out of here,” just before passing Wash Rock. Bosley replies, “Fuck that!”
MK3 Schlimme may have been indicating a desire to go back to the station or instead, to go out to deeper water past the bar.
FA Ballard assists FA DaMello with communications and radios the CG 44363 to pass the Group’s instructions to have the ready boat standby.
BM2 Bosley responds, “Standby, we’re a little busy,” likely because BM2 Bosley is focused on negotiating the rough seas on the bar while heading outbound.
Regarding the possibility of a hoax, Bosley tells the crew, “I hope not!”
BM2 Bosley directs SA Wingo to aim the spotlight starboard towards James Island around the time the CG 44363 is at Wash Rock.
Bosley wants to keep the island off the starboard beam. The CG 44363 is 100-150 yards off of the island.
BM2 Bosley radios the station that the CG 44363 has safely crossed the bar and that seas are 16-18 feet past the bar and evening out. Wind is from the WSW.
Dr. Noble joins BMCM LaForge on another trip out to the bar overlook. While driving there, the two hear the CG 44363 say they made it safely across the bar.
BMCM LaForge thinks that the CG 44363 is likely turning away from James Island and toward the “Q” buoy into deeper (safer) water.
SA Wingo hears BM2 Bosley radio the station that it is 15-16 feet out (a factual inconsistency) and later said, “I was about to call BS. Those waves were a lot higher than 15-16 feet and it wasn’t getting better, but I was like, ‘oh well.’”
The 44363 is not transiting south on the safe route outbound to the “Q” buoy, but is actually being set north towards the edge of James Island
Approx. 00:48, First Rollover
SA Wingo calls out, “Rock, starboard side! 10 feet!” The boat hits something.
BM2 Bosley yells, “What was that!?” Someone else shouts, “Wave port side!”
SA Wingo sees an enormous wave off the port bow and the boat is rolled over to starboard. SA Wingo hits his head on something and tastes blood. The boat rights itself with its bow pointing towards James Island.
When the boat comes up, SA Wingo is twisted in his belt and wrapped up in the boat’s canvas dodger. The mast is bent flat to the port side. Wingo reaches for the spotlight and realizes it has broken off the top of the cabin and is gone.
CG 44363 has been underway for about 14 minutes.
BM2 Bosley radios, “Capsized and disoriented.”
Those familiar with the Quillayute River bar and Coxswain training at the time theorize that BM2 Bosley piloted the CG 44363 into waves that were reflecting off James Island. After the lifeboat righted with its bow pointing towards the island, BM2 Bosley likely continued to steer in that direction, following his training to keep the boat’s bow “square” into the oncoming breaking waves. But when the true swell from the NW arrived (before striking the island and reflecting back towards the south and the CG 44363), it would have struck the CG 44363 on the port beam, driving the lifeboat into the side of James Island.
FA DaMello hears the call about CG 44363 being capsized, but he and Group Port Angeles are confused if the caller is the GALE RUNNER or the CG 44363. Group and Station hail both boats.
The recalled second boat crew begins arriving at the Station. They start dressing out in anti-exposure suits and then change their minds, opting for dry suits.
The crew heads down to the second motor lifeboat and pass the communications room. They overhear, “Capsized…” but think it is in reference to the sail boat.
On CG 44363, MK3 Schlimme yells, “We’re still on the bar!”
BM2 Bosley calls out, “Find me #3!”
SA Wingo can see the lights of the town of La Push, but doesn’t see light #3, which is too far back around the eastern side of James Island to be visible.
Officer in Charge (OIC) BMCM LaForge and Dr. Noble hear the CG 44363 say they rolled. The OIC can’t see the MLB’s navigation lights, but for a moment sees its spotlight sweeping rapidly towards the south from what he thinks is the seaward side of James Island.
The OIC now knows the CG 44363 is in trouble (too close to rocky James Island) and calls the station to get the second boat underway. He also directs the station to call Group Port Angeles and get a helicopter dispatched.
FA DaMello calls the OIC back and passes that Group’s duty officer wants to talk with him because Group is still concerned the mayday call is a hoax.
BMCM LaForge and Dr. Noble return to the Station and the OIC tells the BM1 Placido that the CG 44363 is in trouble.
BMCM LaForge phones Group Port Angeles and says he has, “A serious situation and still [needs] the HH-65A helicopter launched” and also requests an HH-60 helicopter from Astoria, OR.
GALE RUNNER passes their full latitude/longitude position to Group Port Angeles after Marcia Infante realizes the boat’s GPS unit is functional. They are not on the bar, but farther south near the Needles.
Approx. 00:49, Second Rollover
SA Wingo hears someone shout something. The boat is hit by a wave on the port quarter and pitch-poles, end over end. Upon re-righting itself, the CG 44363 rests on the rocks and Wingo knows it is out of the water because the engine noise is different. The mast and entire top of the cabin have sheared off. BM2 Bosley and SN Miniken are gone.
The ship’s clock recovered from the wreckage of the CG 44363 was stopped at exactly 00h:49m:03s.
CG 44363 has been underway for about 15 minutes.
MK3 Schlimme takes control of the motor lifeboat. SA Wingo panics and says, “We have to get out of here” and begins to unclip his surf belt. Schlimme convinces Wingo that it’s safest to stay with the boat and to clip back in. He asks Wingo for the boat’s radio and tries to call the station with their position.
SA Wingo looks down at the radio while Schlimme makes the call and sees that it’s broken. Wingo realizes that MK3 Schlimme “Was just doing it to calm me down, and it worked because suddenly I was super calm. He saved my life by keeping me on the boat.”
MK3 Schlimme tries to get himself and SA Wingo down into the forward compartment of the CG 44363, but can’t because the watertight door is damaged and jammed from the boat’s impact with rocks. Seeing another wave approaching, Schlimme yells, “Hold on!”
__:__, Third Rollover
SA Wingo feels the boat roll for a third time after the CG 44363 is knocked off the rock it was resting on and pushed against the rock cliffs. Underwater, he notes a “tremendous quiet.”
When the CG 44363 rights again, MK3 Schlimme is gone and Wingo sees a body float by the boat. He can’t throw a life ring to it because both life rings are missing.
CG 44363 has been underway for about 20 minutes.
Wingo feels the boat drifting backwards and banging along the rocks into the cove on James Island. He sees a strobe light flashing in the cove, grabs the strobe light from his pyro vest, and turns it on.
SA Wingo remembers that he thinks he placed the boat’s engines in neutral, but doesn’t secure them. Wingo grabs the MK-79 flare kit in his survival vst, fires five flares into the sky and two horizontally towards the beach to illuminate it. Like Schlimme, he tries to get into the forward compartment where there is a portable VHF radio and more flares, but also finds the door jammed.
BMCM LaForge is off the phone with Group PA after asking for helicopters and someone at the station tells him they’ve spotted red flares.
The OIC finds Dr. Noble and says, “Let’s go back to the bar.”
BM1 Placido shouts, “I’m going!” and runs down to the CG 44393.
BMCM LaForge parks at the bar overlook with Dr. Noble and sees a red flare in the sky.
BM1 Placido gets down to the CG 44393 and gives a quick brief on the mission. At this point, the second boat crew doesn’t know the CG 44363 is in trouble.
He later said that, “I wanted to stick my nose close to the bar and look around before trying to get across. I had no Goddam clue what the bar was doing.”
CG 44393 gets underway with BM1 Placido as surfman and three other crewmen. By chance, BM3 Martin is on second boat, but should have been on the ready boat. Because of his pregnant wife, the surfmen had given him as much time on second boat as possible.
CG 44363 got underway approximately 24 minutes earlier.
BM1 Placido sees a red flare in the sky shortly after leaving the boat basin. He thinks it could be from the CG 44363. He decides that they must cross the bar.
Dr. Noble and BMCM LaForge have been at the overlook for a few minutes and see the CG 44393 leaving the protection of the river. The OIC thinks he can help keep track of the CG 44393 and advise them if they begin to get set towards James Island.
In his own words, Dr. Noble remembers seeing the, “Small white boat rising. Rising. Rising. Rising until it seemed to stand on its stern. White water almost enveloping the small boat. Then the plunge downward.”
BMCM LaForge uses the VHF radio in his truck to communicate back and forth with the CG 44393 on the bar. As the CG 44393 heads farther out to sea, he can tell that the length of the swells underneath the boat are lengthening out.
He is able to see the CG 44393 getting set north towards James Island and advises the boat. Dr. Noble and the OIC see more red flares from the western part of James Island.
After first notifying the Groups’ Operations Officer around 00:30, the Group Duty Officer calls the Group’s Senior Duty Officer (SDO), CDR Langlois, in his duty room and informs him of the case. The SDO tells him to hit the SAR alarm at the Air Station.
The Group Duty Officer calls the Group Commanding Officer, CAPT Volk, again and tells him that the helicopter is launching because they have lost communications with the CG 44363 and have spotted red flares. Until that time, CAPT Volk did not know that CG 44363 had gotten underway from Station Quillayute River.
CAPT Volk drives into the Air Station and assigns a non-rate in the command center to scribe everything he sees and hears as the case goes on.
SA Wingo floats with the CG 44363, gauging his progress into the cove by the illumination from the boat’s aft deck light. He notices the time on his watch: 01:07.
SA Wingo starts praying, “Not a prayer of all the things I would or wouldn’t do if I was saved, it was just an all-out cry for help: ‘Please get my boat to shore.’” The boat’s stern swings around and points towards the beach at the far back of the cove.
SA Wingo thinks he sees a tree towards shore, unclips his surf belt, hops down into knee-deep water, and wades into the beach.
CG 44393 safely crosses the bar.
TC3 Marshall transmits an Urgent Marine Information Broadcast.
CG 44363 comes to its final resting place at the back of the northern cove in James Island.
Before and after of an operational 44′ motor lifeboat and CG 44363 in its final resting place on James Island. U.S. Coast Guard photos
BM1 Placido remembers that his, “Crew performed like they were supposed to… They constantly fed me information. I felt like a machine. I absorbed the information and my body performed the necessary motions.” Eventually he sees flares both to the north (from the CG 44363) and from the south (from the GALE RUNNER).
He remembers, “I knew which ones were ours. I started to push back in and had to decide: Should I go for the sailboat, or our boat? It was one of the hardest decisions I ever had to make. I [later] saw the helicopter starting to search for our boat. I knew the helo could probably help out our boat better than I could, so I headed for the sailboat.”
BM1 Placido radios the station, “We are on handheld. Our antenna was damaged by a breaker.”
BMCM LaForge advises the CG 44393 to head to the “Q” entrance buoy and stay in deep water.
Eventually the CG 44393 depletes the battery on their portable VHF radio and loses all communications with the station and BMCM LaForge at the overlook. They proceed to the “Q” buoy.
BMCM LaForge calls Group again for helicopter assistance because he has a sailboat in distress, a missing MLB, and another MLB he’s lost communications with.
HH-65 helicopter 6589 takes off from Air Station Port Angeles. BM2 Bosley, MK3 Schlimme, and SN Miniken are already dead.
Officer in Charge BMCM LaForge and Dr. Noble leave the bar overlook to return to the station.
Group Port Angeles Commanding Officer (CO) CAPT Volk calls nearby units to request additional surface assets. The 110-foot cutter CUTTYHUNK is in Neah Bay and is dispatched towards La Push.
CAPT Volk calls CWO2 Robert Coster, the CO of the Station Neah Bay, and asks if he can send one of his lifeboats south to help. CWO2 Coster drives in to his station and reviews the conditions. He makes the difficult decision that he cannot safely send his crews.
CAPT Volk conferences with the CO of Group Astoria and CWO2 Randy Lewis, the CO of Station Grays Harbor. CWO2 Lewis also declines sending his station’s 52-foot motor lifeboat due to the conditions.
Later, CAPT Volk says that both stations’ CO’s, “Made the right decision.”
Station personnel observe a parachute flare.
Station personnel observe another flare.
6589 arrives on scene in the vicinity of James Island, is briefed about the situation by BMCM LaForge, and commences a search near James Island.
Sailing vessel GALE RUNNER passes an accurate position to the Coast Guard after reestablishing communications. They are keeping up with the flooding by bailing and report having a 4-person life raft aboard.
BMCM LaForge orders a beach search for survivors and several crewmembers, local police, and National Park Rangers set out for First Beach in anti-exposure coveralls and helmets.
HH-60 helicopter 6003 launches from Air Station Astoria, Oregon.
BMCM LaForge has to decide where to send resources: to the GALE RUNNER or to James Island for his lifeboat crew?
He radios the CG 6589 back and recommends they leave James Island and proceed to the GALE RUNNER’s position because it is only minutes away from the rocks.
LaForge advises his watchstander to keep off the radio as much as possible because the helicopter may only have a brief window to transmit that they’re in trouble too. BMCM LaForge has 14 lives and three Coast Guard assets in his hands.
6589 diverts from the vicinity of James Island and flies towards The Needles. To make an approach on the GALE RUNNER, they must fly over, around, and through the rock pinnacles which reach over 100 feet. The helicopter is being buffeted by wind and keeps fighting to make new approaches as the sailboat is washed over by breaking waves and drifts between the rock pinnacles.
FA DaMello is relieved of the communications watch to help the beach party. At First Beach, he and two other members park at the Lonesome Creek Campground and run down the beach, dodging waves.
SA Wingo sees a helicopter searchlight in the distance and CG 44393, and activates the night end of his MK-124 signal flare.
6589 arrives on scene with the GALE RUNNER to commence the hoist.
HH-65 helicopter 6585 launches from Air Station Port Angeles.
CG 44393 arrives south of the “Q” buoy and is tasked by the Station to stay there. They remain there for about six hours until daylight and the chance to return across the bar.
6589 hoists both crewmembers off the GALE RUNNER, but overstresses its hoist. The GALE RUNNER continues to drift southeast until it comes to a final rest on Second Beach, south of La Push.
6589 lands at Station Quillayute River’s ball field to pass the survivors to an ambulance and depart for Station Neah Bay to refuel.
6003 arrives on scene and spots a strobe light flashing from the cliff at the back of the cove on James Island.
On First Beach, FA DaMello sees a flashing light down the beach and starts running towards it. While running, DaMello and another member of the beach party are hit by a log that surges towards them on a wave.
The wave knocks DaMello down and the log pins him underwater. FN DaMello sees his life and family flashing before his eyes and takes a breath of seawater. DaMello’s arm is dislocated by the log, but it releases him and he gets to his feet.
The light seen up the beach belongs to a National Park Ranger helping with the search.
BMCM LaForge heads out to First Beach with another beach party. He is overheard saying to himself, “I should have trained them more, I should have trained them more.”
SN Miniken is found unconscious without socks or boots on by the other beach party on First Beach. The beach crew performs CPR at the scene and an ambulance takes him to the hospital in Forks, WA. Taking shifts with compressions, the team of responders gives him CPR for a total of four hours.
6003 spots debris from CG 44363 and SA Wingo’s strobe light on the cliff on James Island. The Station advises them of the extreme danger of lowering a rescue swimmer there.
Approximate position: A life ring from and helmet are found on First Beach.
6003 observes BM2 Bosley and MK3 Schlimme floating facedown in the cove on James Island and notes that CG 44363 has floated loose and is moving south. They request the county’s high angle rescue team be contacted to rescue SA Wingo on the cliff.
CG 44393 loses communications with the Station after its portable VHF radio dies.
HH-60 helicopter 6013 launches from Air Station Astoria, Oregon.
6003 spots a survivor and lowers to a 100-foot hover. Air Station Port Angeles requests it remain on scene to provide moral support.
6013 arrives on scene and relieves 6003.
6013 hoists a rescue swimmer down to James Island.
Coast Guard Cutter CUTTHYHUNK arrives on scene with CG 44393 after transiting south from Neah Bay. Station Quillayute River requests that the cutter maintain a visual on CG 44393.
Approximate position: 6585 deploys a second portable VHF radio to CG 44393 and it operates properly.
6013’s rescue swimmer spots SA Wingo’s strobe and chem light and moves to the cliff to make contact. SA Wingo is unhurt.
6013 hoists the Clallam County High Angle Rescue Team down to James Island.
6585 deploys its rescue swimmer to James Island to make contact with SA Wingo. They report that he is an E-2.
6585’s rescue swimmer reports that SA Wingo is in good health.
CG 44393 safely crosses the bar back into the Quillayute River and moors at Station Quillayute River. They have been underway for six hours and 36 minutes. Until they moor and see the other slip empty, they are unaware that CG 44363 has been lost.
6585’s rescue swimmer locates a body on the south side of the cove, within the surf zone. The rescue team spots another body on the north side of the cove.
6013 finishes hoisting SA Wingo to safety and is tasked to return to the Station’s ball field if Wingo is in good health.
6013 recovers BM2 Bosley and MK3 Schlimme from the beach in the cove at James Island. Their rescue swimmer states that the wreck of CG 44363 is in “bad shape” and is leaking fuel.
Station is notified that SN Miniken has been pronounced dead at Forks Community Hospital.
6013 hoists the remaining five rescue team members and its rescue swimmer from the beach. The helicopter drops off the remaining Clallam County rescue team and departs for Air Station Astoria.
The Coast Guard convenes a formal board of investigation in Forks, Washington to look into the CG 44363 mishap.
The wreckage of CG 44363 is cut into three pieces and removed from James Island by contracted helicopter. The pieces are flown to a site near La Push, Washington to be prepared for ground transportation and are eventually transported to the Midway Metals scrap yard in Port Angeles, Washington. Within 1-2 years, all of the remains of CG 44363 are transported from Midway Metals to Tacoma, Washington where they are melted as scrap.
The formal board of investigation’s initial report on the mishap is completed.
Coast Guard District 13 commander RADM J. David Spade endorses the initial mishap investigation.
Coast Guard Chief of Staff ADM James Loy internally releases his “Chief of Staff’s Final Decision Letter” on the mishap to Coast Guard units.
Coast Guard Commandant ADM Robert Kramek publicly releases his final action message about the mishap.
CDR Hasselbalch, James M. Investigation into the Capsizing and Subsequent Loss of MLB 44363 and the Death of Three Coast Guard Members That Occurred at Coast Guard Station Quillayute River on 12 FEB 1997. March, 1997 (including reviews by RADM J. David Spade and ADM Robert E. Kramek).
U.S. Coast Guard audio recording
(1) Thompson, Evan. “Clinton Man Buys Property, Finds Maritime History Stashed in Barn.” South Whidbey Record, 21 Dec. 2016, https://www.southwhidbeyrecord.com/news/clinton-man-buys-property-finds-maritime-history-stashed-in-barn/
(2) McCormick, George. “Photograph of beach onlookers and Coast Guard helicopter.” “Communities Grieve for Lost Men.” Forks Forum, 19 Feb. 1997, p. 1, 9.
(3) Thorpe, Keith. “Photograph of Coast Guard rescue swimmer” Dawson, Mike. “Coast Guard, Town Mourn Heroes.” Peninsula Daily News, Feb. 1997, p. A1.
cover: U.S. Coast Guard photo