Man's body found on Nooksack River after 'serious mental health crisis'

A 41-year-old man from Seattle, who had been living in Whatcom County, was found dead Saturday on a river bar in the Nooksack River near Mount Baker Highway at milepost 22 after an apparent serious mental health crisis, according to a Whatcom County Sheriff's Office release.

Sheriff's deputies and Washington State Patrol troopers received a report of a naked man near Mount Baker Highway and Cornell Creek Road at about 11:30 a.m. Saturday, according to the release. A friend reported the man was acting strangely and believed he was affected by demons and evil spirits and had driven a stake into his mouth. The man walked down the Nooksack River before floating in the current.

A state trooper spotted the man near the Glacier Springs development, according to the release, but the man refused to come out of the river. The trooper saw the man attempt to drive the stake deeper into his mouth with a rock and also attempt to put a second stake and rocks in his mouth, before he floated further down the river and out of sight of the trooper.

Helicopter and river search and rescue teams from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection assisted in the search for the man, the release said, and shortly after 4 p.m. kayakers found his body on the river bar. Customs and Border Protection removed the man's body from the river, and deputies took him to the Whatcom Medical Examiner's Office for further investigation and identification.

Sheriff Bill Elfo said in the release that "the Sheriff's Office has experienced increases in the frequency and severity of persons in mental health crisis."