Police: Kayakers in tragic accident weren’t wearing life jackets

A late-night kayak trip from Bainbridge Island to Blakely Rock turned deadly for two men early Friday morning after their craft capsized and dumped the pair into the frigid waters of Puget Sound.

Bainbridge police said one man survived after swimming to shore, and the search for the remaining kayaker was turned into a recovery operation late Friday morning.

The men were not wearing life jackets, according to Bainbridge police.

Bainbridge Island Fire Department Deputy Chief Jared Moravec said the fire department was dispatched shortly after 7 a.m. Jan. 18 after receiving a report of a kayaker who went missing after his kayak capsized.

“Basically, it was a two-person kayak and two males were paddling out to Blakely Rock and got in some trouble and went in the water,” Moravec said.

Multiple units and departments responded to the emergency.

In addition to the Bainbridge Island Fire Department and the Coast Guard, the search was joined by the Poulsbo Fire Department, North Kitsap Fire & Rescue, the Bainbridge Island Police Department and the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office.

The Navy also sent a search-and-rescue helicopter from Whidbey Island Naval Air Station to look for the missing kayaker.

Bainbridge Police Sgt. Ben Sias said search vessels stopped looking for the missing man early Friday afternoon, and a vessel equipped with side-scan sonar from the Seattle Police Department’s Harbor Patrol Division was called to the scene to help find the kayaker.

The vessel was expected to start searching again once a crew was assembled, Sias said.

Sias also said authorities received the emergency call at least an hour after the tragedy happened.

The two kayakers — who were not Bainbridge residents — left from the Country Club of Seattle’s dock near the southeastern end of Blakely Harbor, off Country Club Road, while it was still dark.

The pair were headed to Blakely Rock, which sits just north of Restoration Point at the entrance to the harbor.

After the kayak flipped, one of the men swam to shore.

“He indicated they were between the rock and the shore but closer to the shore, and on their way coming back from the rock,” Sias said.

The tragic accident occurred while it was still dark.

“This all happened quite a bit prior to anybody being called,” Sias said.

The kayaker who made it to shore was hypothermic, Sias said, and went home and had a hot shower before calling authorities.

He was not taken to the hospital; police said he was evaluated and released.

The search for the missing kayaker was based in a triangle-shaped area that stretched from Restoration Point to Blakely Rock and back to the Country Club dock.

Sias said divers were not immediately being used to find the missing man due to the large size of the search area.

Both of the kayakers were from out of state, though the missing man has family in the area, Sias said.

Both the canoe and the kayakers’ paddles have been recovered, police said.

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