Presumed bodies of missing boaters located near Mercer Island Monday

Medical examiner will determine cause of death.

Mercer Island Police have located the bodies of James Le and Vanna Nguyen, within a quarter mile of Le’s boat which police found drifting abandoned.

At about 4:30 p.m. on Sept. 30, the Mercer Island Police Marine Patrol recovered the two bodies from Lake Washington in the 7800 block of West Mercer Way. They were transported to the boat dock and the medical examiner (ME) was given full custody. The ME confirmed on Tuesday that both parties died of asphyxia due to drowning and their manner of death was listed as an accident.

The bodies were one mile from the Mercer Island shore and about 110 feet underwater — the equivalent of an 11-story building, said commander Jeff Magnan with the Mercer Island Police Department.

Le and Nguyen have been missing since the pair went for a bike ride, followed by an evening boat trip on Sept. 2. Police responded to noise complaints and found Le’s boat in the 7700 block of West Mercer Way. It was empty but Le’s and Nguyen’s cell phones remained onboard.

What followed was a U.S. Coast Guard, Seattle police and King County aided search. Others did personal searches in kayaks and boats. Friends and family held a vigil for the missing friends on Sept. 7 at Renton’s Gene Coulon Memorial Beach Park.

For the last two weeks straight, a remote operated vehicle (ROV) described as an underwater drone has searched the large lake. Without a last seen point and no clear idea on where the pair entered the water, police have been seeking out potential targets using a side scan sonar.

Yesterday officers were searching a new area of water when they located the bodies, Magnan said. The latest ROV device, provided by Strategic Robotic Systems, is equipped with a grappling arm. It was used to pull the bodies from the water before they were turned over.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families,” Magnan said, before the ME confirmed the identity of the deceased. “The toughest part of our investigation continues as we wait for the results of the autopsy … it can take some time before we’re able to close out the case.”


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