Search suspended for missing Bellevue kayaker

Mercer Island police officers prepare the marine patrol boats to search for a missing kayaker in the East Channel of Lake Washington on Saturday, Feb. 12. - Chad Coleman/Staff Photo
Mercer Island police officers prepare the marine patrol boats to search for a missing kayaker in the East Channel of Lake Washington on Saturday, Feb. 12.
— image credit: Chad Coleman/Staff Photo

According to Bellevue police, a Bellevue resident may be the kayaker missing on Lake Washington.

In a release from the Bellevue Police Department, the kayaker, who is presumed to have drowned Saturday, Feb. 12, is 46-year-old Christopher Rominski.

“On Saturday at 3:45 p.m., NORCOM, our dispatch center, received a call about a kayaker that was in distress,” said Commander Leslie Burns with the Mercer Island Police Department. “Marine patrol went out about 20 minutes later.”

Burns said a witness in Bellevue who was at the Newport Shore Cascade Keys area, at the mouth of Newport Shores, happened to be watching the lake during the storm Saturday. The witness was watching the kayaker, and said he overturned his kayak and was struggling considerably. The witness went to get her husband to offer assistance, but by the time they came back, she had lost sight of the kayaker. Burns said an empty kayak was recovered.

The Coast Guard also assisted on Saturday night, according to Coast Guard spokesman Nate Littlejohn. Coast Guard sector Puget Sound received the call from the witness who had reported the kayaker to MIPD. Gusts in the Puget Sound region reached as high as 48 mph on Saturday, resulting in very choppy water on the lake and Puget Sound.

Mercer Island rescue crews arrived on scene and reported a partially submerged kayak in Lake Washington on the east side of Mercer Island, approximately 400 yards south of the I-90 bridge. Bellevue police then identified a vehicle that was later traced to the missing kayaker.

At approximately 5:45 p.m., Coast Guard Air Station Port Angeles launched an HH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew to the scene to assist with search and rescue operations. The search continued for two hours with no results.

The Coast Guard Station Seattle launched a 25-foot response boat to continue the search-and-rescue operations throughout the night.

“We looked for most of the day (Sunday) and didn’t come up with anything,” Littlejohn said.

The effort continued on Monday, but was called a recovery effort, before being called off later in the afternoon.

Despite challenging diving conditions on Monday, and through the weekend, with cold water and low visibility, the divers conducted a thorough search of the area.

Family members reported Rominski missing after he failed to return from the kayaking outing which he began at Enatai Beach Park in Bellevue. Bellevue police contacted his family after finding his vehicle in the parking lot near the beach. Rominski’s family has identified the kayak.

“This quickly became a recovery situation,” Burns said. “Survivability is low for anyone in the water due to the frigid water temperature, weather conditions and length of time in the water. All night Saturday into Sunday we were scouring the waters and shores.”

Burns said the bay had been thoroughly searched with sonar and divers.

“We just came out of the water,” Burns said Monday afternoon. “We had Seattle Harbor Patrol out there with their sonar; unfortunately, the conditions and visibility are horrible.”

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