Update: West Seattle Water Taxi crew rescues diver off Seacrest

Thanks to everyone who’s asked about the fire/police response to Seacrest late this morning. A diver got into trouble – but there’s more to the story, as you can see in the photo above, shared by Roger. King County Department of Transportation spokesperson Rochelle Ogershok confirms that as the Rachel Marie was pulling into Seacrest, one of their crew members spotted “someone waving in the water, as though they were in trouble. When they got closer, they could see something was wrong. So the deckhand jumped into the water,” and managed to get the diver out of the water. The Coast Guard was called, and they along with other authorities took over. We know Seattle Fire units responded and are waiting for official word from them; WSB contributor Katie Meyer says scanner traffic at the time indicated the diver was described as a man around 50, believed to have been in distress after a rapid ascent. We’ll add any more information we get about his status.

ADDED 5:31 PM: SFD didn’t have additional information about the diver, aside from the same info we reported above. However, there’s a bit more about the heroism. KCDOT hadn’t heard about this just yet when we called – but now they’ve put together an entire news release:

King County employees participated in the rescue of a distressed scuba diver Tuesday morning as the Rachel Marie water taxi pulled away from the Seacrest Dock for their regularly scheduled 11 a.m. sailing. Several passengers witnessed the rescue operation.

“This rescue is yet another example of our county employees’ deep commitment to public service and their instinct to go beyond the call of duty,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine. “I thank the crew of the Rachel Marie for their good work, and I wish the diver a speedy recovery.”

Shortly into the trip across Elliott Bay, the ship’s crew noticed a diver who appeared to be in distress. The boat captain, Neal Amaral, maneuvered the vessel close to the diver as he called for assistance over the radio. Crew member Aaron Barnett [county photo at right], quickly dressed in an onboard rescue suit, jumped into the water, and assisted the diver. Barnett was in the water for about 10 minutes while the diver was maneuvered into a sling.

“We knew what we had to do when we saw him. There was no other option,” said Barnett, the deckhand who dove into the water to assist the diver. “We all worked together as a team. I just happened to be the one who went in the water, but the whole crew pulled together to help him. I’m just glad we saw him, and we hope he’s okay.”

The Seattle Port Police responded to the radio call in their vessel, and they, along with the Coast Guard, were able to get the diver to land and to the hospital for medical care. His condition is unknown at this time.

“I commend the entire crew of the Rachel Marie for their quick-thinking and heroic actions this morning,” Ferry District Chair Joe McDermott said. “Their actions and those of the Coast Guard and Port Police helped to secure a successful rescue.”

Barnett and Captain Amaral are both former U.S. Coast Guard members. Barnett plans to graduate from the University of Washington this spring with a graduate degree in Marine Affairs.

24 Replies to "Update: West Seattle Water Taxi crew rescues diver off Seacrest"

  • Skeeter May 10, 2011 (2:40 pm)

    Do divers typically use the buddy system? Makes me wonder what would have happened if the Rachel Marie wasn’t there. Good work on the coverage WSB. Hope everyone is okay.

  • Not_So_New_Now May 10, 2011 (2:45 pm)

    Yay to the water taxi crew!!!! You rock!

  • MB May 10, 2011 (2:48 pm)


  • Val M May 10, 2011 (4:09 pm)

    That water taxi crew is hard core! If I remember correctly this isn’t the first time one of them has dove in to save someone! Big Kuddos to them :D

  • Paul May 10, 2011 (4:15 pm)

    If the guy did a ballistic ascent his buddy shouldn’t/couldn’t follow, you’d just end up with 2 victims instead of one (and not all divers dive with a buddy, no buddy may be better than a bad buddy).

    My initial thought is a cardiac event of some sort, most scuba fatalities are heart attacks. Guy is working hard underwater, starts having chest pains, bolts to the surface. Mine you this is all conjuncture at this point, glad he was safely pulled from the water.

    • WSB May 10, 2011 (4:23 pm)

      Paul – all the Fire Dept. knows is that he was taken to the hospital and was in his 50s and that it apparently was a case of rapid ascent, so I have no new info and until/unless someone who knows him happens onto this, we won’t know, since I don’t have a name. He was believed to be in serious condition as he was being transported, which is better than critical, so here’s hoping not a life-threatening situation – TR

  • Tanya Barnett May 10, 2011 (4:56 pm)

    MY HERO… every day!!!!!

  • mk May 10, 2011 (5:16 pm)

    i was on the water taxi and saw the whole thing. the guy was alone.

  • Matt May 10, 2011 (6:13 pm)

    Kudos to the Water Taxi crew. Now the issue of poorly trained, out of condition scuba divers. Yes where’s the buddy system, etc. I see the people all the time along this stretch and it surprises me that more inadequately prepared scuba people don’t have these problems. Hope the guy recovers completely, but maybe rethink your conditioning, training and preparation.

  • Traci May 10, 2011 (6:33 pm)

    There are many, many things that could have gone wrong. Health emergency, ran out of air or had a device failure of some sort, maybe even got extremely spooked by something and panicked.

    Hopefully he’s doing ok… Depending on how fast he ascended/how deep he was he may be spending a painful evening in a hyperbaric chamber :(

  • jeff May 10, 2011 (6:58 pm)

    Well I know this dive site and it looks like they are out a ways from shore. Means if he was at depth, it was pretty deep 90-100fsw. Like someone said if your buddy bolts to the service you do not follow him. IF he paniced and held his breath that is not good at all. Your lungs will burst.There are way to many things that could have happened so you just have to wait to hear more details. The one thing I know is awesome job by the crew of pulling him out and getting him medical attentionn

  • 35this35mph May 10, 2011 (7:30 pm)

    Hot D@mn! Way to go Water Taxi crew! Hope the diver is OK.

  • Tony May 10, 2011 (10:05 pm)

    Go Unionized Public Employees, you rock!

  • Valerie Merkes May 11, 2011 (12:10 am)

    I commend the entire crew of the Rachel Marie. That is my brother. Thank you. He is a proud member of the Pierce County Fire and Rescue and they are on 24 hour watch at the hospital, because they are family. Barnett, we are forever grateful.

  • DWHJ May 11, 2011 (9:34 am)

    you are a hero and I hope you know it I hope your proud and allow people to acknowledge your heroism

  • k2 May 11, 2011 (11:03 am)

    @Matt, your statements are ignorant.
    What makes you think he was poorly trained, and how can you tell they are inadequately prepared?

    I’d like to know your credentials, and what makes you so knowledgeable.

  • Maria DenOuden May 11, 2011 (12:32 pm)

    Yea Aaron! What a morning!
    Hi Tanya!

  • Diver Down May 11, 2011 (2:09 pm)


    I’m an active and trained diver. Given that there’s no mention of a buddy being around I’d have to go with ill trained or ill prepared.

    Honestly, my first thought was also where’s the buddy?

  • aPNWscubadiver May 11, 2011 (5:04 pm)

    I’m curious how someone reading the article could tell what level of physical conditioning this diver had, much less how well trained and prepared they were for this dive.

    Speaking in such a fashion insinuates you either know far more about this diver than has been reported or that you’ve really no clue what your talking about. I’d bet on the later

  • Diver May 11, 2011 (11:48 pm)

    I’ve heard through a mutual fiend that the diver has survived the first day of hospitalization.

    • WSB May 12, 2011 (12:10 am)

      Thanks, “Diver.” I don’t know his name so I have no way of even asking the hospital for information, but friends/acquaintances/family often come back to comments on stories like this with updates. We are hoping for the best. – TR

  • Diver Too May 13, 2011 (10:50 pm)

    Lots of interest in the local dive community on both the diver’s condition and the accident details. We’re hoping for his recovery and interested to review the accident to see if there is something to be learned for all of our safety.

  • Matt May 17, 2011 (9:51 am)

    For the record, since you guys asked, I have been a Naui certified instructor since 1994. I don’t instruct any more due to the fact that the liability in training out of shape and unprepared people is more than I care to accept. I did not pass many divers because of this. I drive along Harbor every day on my way home from work so I see the divers suiting up and getting ready for their dives. I can tell pretty quick if someone is in shape and if they are well trained due to their pre-dive preparations. Sure, this guy may have been one of the best divers out there, but I’ve observed many poorly prepared ones that could have been this guy too. Thanks for proclaiming my ignorance, but I’m fairly confident i know what I am talking about.

  • Robert May 18, 2011 (7:00 am)

    A little FYI here. The diver happens to be a Firefighter for a local Fire Dept in the PNW.
    I used to be a member of this FD and know what kind of training they provide for the staff. I dont have all the details yet, but it could be medical or equipement related.

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