UPDATE: Water-rescue response at Emma Schmitz Overlook, quickly canceled

10:05 AM: Seattle Fire has sent a “water rescue response” to the 4500 block of Beach Drive – Emma Schmitz Memorial Overlook [map] – after a caller further south on Beach Drive reported seeing what appeared to be a windsurfer in trouble. Land and sea units are headed that way.

10:15 AM: Police have just told their dispatcher that “Fire says he’s fine.” And then SFD told dispatch that the windsurfer is safely back ashore.

9 Replies to "UPDATE: Water-rescue response at Emma Schmitz Overlook, quickly canceled"

  • jedidiahperkins June 11, 2024 (11:36 am)

    I am curious how long people observe these situations before calling it in and whether the person in the water is screaming/waving for help in the moment. I keyword searched “water-rescue” here on the blog and it seems like it happens pretty frequently and is almost always a false alarm. In this instance, it looks like 15 units responded by land and sea, all to turn right back around because the kite surfer was fine. Obviously it is important to look out for each other but this seems pretty excessive.

    • Former lifeguard June 11, 2024 (2:12 pm)

      Drowning often manifests silently for all kinds of reasons. Someone can appear quiet in the water without thrashing about. 

  • Anne June 11, 2024 (1:19 pm)

    Personally I like that SFD errs on the side of caution- just like with fires- best to have more help & not need it-than less help & waste precious time & possibly lives calling for more. I’m not going to second guess them. 

    • k June 11, 2024 (2:08 pm)

      Not to mention the regular callouts that turn out to be nothing give first responders practice at going to the scene and assessing the situation.  The more they do it, the less adrenaline will be pumping when an actual emergency does come up, which will allow for clearer decision-making when it really matters.

    • jedidiahperkins June 11, 2024 (2:15 pm)

      Hi Anne, this has nothing to do with the actual response efforts. I have family and friends at SFD, so I am well aware of the need for a rapid and comprehensive response. My curiosity is about the people calling 911 for a water-rescue, which requires a (necessary) massive response, when no one in the water is in distress.

      • Anne June 11, 2024 (2:55 pm)

        My take is the same-I’d rather have folks call 911 even if they aren’t 100% positive theres an emergency -than waste possible precious time-especially if they can’t actually contact the person they think is in trouble. If you have family/friends at SFD -ask them what they think. I’d be surprised if they said they thought folks  should wait to call until————-????

  • jedidiahperkins June 11, 2024 (4:05 pm)

    Omg y’all are wild. Can any of you tell me what a kite surfer in distress looks like?

    Yes, you should always call 911 if someone is in trouble, that was not the point of my comment whatsoever. I’m asking how people are so frequently looking out into the water and deciding “that person is in distress,” when the person isn’t actually in distress. It happens a lot and I am wondering what people are seeing.

  • K June 11, 2024 (6:51 pm)

    I think it’s important to know that people frequently do not look in distress when in the water. I witnessed an amazing rescue a few months back of a kite surfer off Alki. I was very grateful someone had called, even if being over-cautious.  I noticed the kite boarder paddling, laying on his board and was for a very long time trying to make headway towards the shore and appeared to be not making any headway and fatiguing. He was getting more and more tangled in his lines from the kite, and not making any headway, and this dissuaded me from ever trying this sport. I happened to be walking along Alki, someone must have called Seattle fire. They got down on the rocks and helped pull him in. His lines were all tangled around him, and getting him off the water and away from the rocks was in itself a challenge. The guy, once he got out was ok, but NOT fine. There would have been no way he would have been able to get out on his own. Just watching this, I was super grateful that someone called and that the fire team took it seriously, because he could have been just mistaken for being “fine”. I guess the thing I noticed about this guy was he was paddling on his board but would just lay there like he was fatiguing. All his lines and kite were wrapped around and dragging far behind him, I think creating so much drag he couldn’t get out. I don’t know much about the sport, but it looked scary. 

  • jedidiahperkins June 12, 2024 (11:06 am)

    I looked back through the blog posts about water rescues and found a really helpful comment that I pasted below. This was from a false alarm call back in 2021. I found it to be informative because I noticed that a good amount of the false alarms reported are for kite/wind surfers.

     Hi – I was one of the wing foil guys out early this morning so I am guessing this was called on one of us. I appreciate folks’ concern for us and also want to provide some context for those watching from the shore who are wondering whether or not they should call for a rescue. It is totally normal and expected to see us fall in the water. I fall in every couple minutes when trying to turn or surf the chop. We dress appropriately for this expectation: thermal layers, dry suit, pfd. Many of us also wear helmets in case we bonk ourselves on the board.  What this means is that I may be in the water for a minute or even a few and am completely comfortable. I may even just be taking a breather for a second before getting back on the board. My recommendation, and other wind riders may have different thoughts, is to watch for two situations: first if someone is in the water (not on their board) and not moving at all for more than a three or four minutes (I’d worry someone got knocked out or had a med emergency) and second if someone is clearly making a distress signal by waving their arms above their head and facing towards shore. Otherwise, we are generally speaking in a non emergency situation. We may have lost gear and need to paddle back to shore or the wind dies and we have to slowly get back to shore somehow, but we are not in danger in these situations. We consider tides and wind direction before going out. This means we only go when we expect the wind to help us get back to shore if we have trouble for some reason. If we end up somewhere along the shoreline that isn’t where we expected, many of us carry our phones to call for a ride. In any case, I hope this context helps – we appreciate your concern and interest. Feel free to say hi to us on the beach if you have any questions.

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