Man presumed drowned after canoe overturns in Lake Padden

BELLINGHAM - A 28-year-old man was presumed drowned after the canoe he was in overturned on Lake Padden Friday afternoon, Jan. 29.

Witnesses heard someone screaming for help after the canoe flipped about 1:15 p.m.

Two people in the boat got dumped into the chilly water. Off-duty Bellingham Firefighter Beau Whitehead was at Lake Padden with two stand-up paddle boards, and he and a police officer paddled out. Whitehead got to the site first, rescued one of the canoeists and paddled back to the officer. He handed off the victim to the officer, who took the person to the shore where paramedics waited.

Whitehead then headed back to the other canoeist. By then the man had gone under twice, and Whitehead was unable to find him.

The rescued person was taken to St. Joseph Hospital.

Whitehead said he flipped the canoe back over and discovered two life jackets.

Visibility in the water was about six to eight feet, rescuers said. The lake temperature is about 40 degrees, according to Bellingham Parks & Recreation.

While searchers were on boats on the lake looking for the missing man, a helicopter from U.S. Customs & Border Protection's Air and Marine division flew overhead to see if the crew had a better view of anything.

Crews from South Whatcom Fire Authority and Whatcom County Search and Rescue set up buoys to mark an area where they believe the man drowned.

A special underwater camera that extends 24 feet down into the water was brought in later in the afternoon and was being used to search the area. Divers also were called in to help search.

The search was suspended for the night at about 6 p.m. and will resume at 9 a.m. Saturday, Bellingham Police spokesman Mark Young said

The names of the canoeists had not been released as of 6 p.m. Friday

State law requires boaters to have a life jacket on board for every person, but adults aren't required to wear them at all times.