Bellingham man eludes police in Nooksack River

A Bellingham man was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving Friday night after eluding law enforcement for several hours in the Nooksack River, according to Sgt. Steve Cooley with the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office.

Jose P. Garcia, 43, crashed his car at the corner of Northwood and Timon roads south of Lynden about 5 p.m. before jumping into the river, Cooley said. He was not found until about 10:15 p.m.

Garcia received a minor head injury in the crash and was taken to St. Joseph Hospital before being arrested, Cooley said.

The incident unfolded as follows:

Garcia missed the turn on Northwood and Timon roads and crashed into a circular curb with flowers in it. Witnesses went to the crash scene and attempted to help Garcia before he ran through the bushes, jumped over the river dike and into the river.

Several law enforcement agencies, including the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office, Lynden Police Department and Border Patrol, spent a couple hours searching the river as far as Hannegan Road. Customs and Border Protection diverted a helicopter already in the air to help with the search, and Whatcom County Fire District No. 1 dispatched their boat to search the water. North Whatcom Fire and Rescue Services stood by for medical needs.

A few hours after law enforcement stopped searching, a passerby spotted Garcia lying in a ditch near the crash site, soaking wet.