Mercer Island police are partnering with Seattle Police Harbor Patrol and the U.S. Coast Guard in their ongoing search for two missing boaters.
On Sept. 2, at about 10:30 p.m., Mercer Island police received a noise complaint. The caller reported music coming from a boat offshore in the 7700 block of West Mercer Way. They told police they began hearing the music at about 9:30 p.m., but it wasn’t until an hour later that they called the police.
Officers who responded in a Marine Patrol Boat found while the vessel was still playing loud music, there was no one aboard the red 20-foot “ski type boat.” And evidence — two open and partially consumed bottles of alcohol and two cell phones — pointed to there having been at least two onboard.
The Coast Guard used a helicopter to search the lake and ground and other marine units searched the water and shoreline, Mercer Island police said. They located a trailer and truck associated with the boat at Gene Coulon Park in Renton.
Law enforcement reached out to friends and family and determined that there was at least one 30-year-old Seattle man and a 33-year-old woman from Burien aboard the boat who are missing. Those missing are James Le and Vanna Nguyen, a close friend of Le’s confirmed.
The man was experienced in operating the vessel and the boat operational, said commander Jeff Magnan, with Mercer Island PD. Their relationship is unknown and the police continue to work with their families to piece together what happened.
“We’re not jumping to any conclusions,” he said about the ongoing investigation. “We’re just trying to figure out what happened. There’s no signs of foul play. No signs that the boat was hit by another boat. At this point it could just be sad mishap.”
There was no damage to the boat and nothing that would preclude the pair from motoring away, Magnan said. Police are currently processing and searching the boat. They’re also examining the two phones left behind, in an attempt to pin down a GPS location of where they were last used.
“Once we have that it would narrow down the search area,” he said. “Right now our search area is the whole south end of Lake Washington on the west side.”
Mercer Island police are working with the Coast Guard to determine drift patterns. Lake Washington has a slight current, Magnan said, as water flows from Cedar River at the south end and eventually flows through Lake Union. They will also take into account the wind blowing from the north, northwest.
Because of these factors, they believe the boat drifted from Seattle’s jurisdictional water but are unsure of how long the boat had been drifting for, before police found it. It could have been hours before the drifting boat made it to the south end of Mercer Island, Magnan said.
Family and friends of the missing persons are having a search party Friday, Sept. 6 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and asking anyone with a boat, kayak or jet ski to come out and help look along Lake Washington. More information is at the public Facebook event here.