As an eyewitness to the tragic plane crash into Mutiny Bay, I spent two hours with binoculars watching the response of citizens and emergency services at the watery scene. First on the scene were private pleasure craft who sped to the site before it was lost to tidal currents — and as news reports now indicate, were essential in identifying and holding the coordinates of the scene, retrieving debris and one victim’s body. Thank you to these people who jumped into action.
It took over 30 minutes for Whidbey Fire District’s zodiac to reach the scene, and even longer for the Coast Guard to arrive. Sunday boaters were literally left adrift to manage a delicate scene with only radio ER support. Behind my neighborhood I could hear sirens and presumed Fire and Rescue crews were racing their craft to Bush Point, which became the launch point for Emergency Services.
But this happened in Mutiny Bay, where the boat launch has been allowed to sand over due to a dispute between county maintenance and several neighbors whose concerns over their private stretch of shoreline have prevented crews from maintaining this public asset. Robinson Beach would have provided everything needed for launch and support — only its boat ramp is currently useless. If the crash had occurred further south, Maxwelton Beach also has a completely sanded over and useless boat launch at Mackie Park.
Are we okay with this?
In situations like this people are always at the mercy of those closest by. I am profoundly grateful to the boaters in the area and onshore who sped to the scene. They took personal risk, initiative, leadership, and compassionate action. They stayed until they handed the scene over to ER personnel and eventually the Coast Guard. No survivors, and in this case, probably no chance of survival. But imagine standing onshore watching people struggle in the water. Imagine someone clinging to debris hoping help will come. Imagine that little toddler bobbing to the surface. In times like these, we need to balance property concerns and community needs. In honor of the folks who died, in honor of the folks who helped, in honor of our ER personnel, let’s deal with the issues and get these boat launches restored and maintained.