Four drownings in five days; friends of one victim remember him and warn others

With a stretch of warm weather hitting the state, Western Washington has seen a streak of drowning deaths in area waters.

Four people have died in five days and a fifth man is in critical condition after being rescued.

- Sunday 6/20 at 7:30 p.m.: 30-year-old man in Lake Tapps rescued and taken to Good Samaritan Hospital in critical condition.

- Sunday 6/20 at 6 p.m.: 32-year-old father of three fell off inner tube being towed by boat on Lake Washington; now considered a presumed drowning. The recovery effort continues.

- Friday, 6/18 at 5 p.m.: Man in his 20s paddleboarding in Lake Sammamish, Issaquah. Divers recovered his body.

- Friday 6/18 at 3:30 p.m.: 29-year-old in Lake Tapps. Crews responded to a possible drowning call. Divers rescued him but he later died at the hospital.

- Wednesday 6/16 at 7 p.m.: 33-year-old dad, identified as Parahat Akyshov, was boating in Lake Washington. He died while trying to save his daughter who went overboard. Crews recovered his body Thursday.

Akyshov, a Bellevue father to two girls, is now being remembered by his friends and the Turkmen community.

“He was a great swimmer. So we didn’t believe — I personally didn’t believe when I heard there was a possibility he might’ve been lost in the water — because he was a perfect swimmer,” said Ramin Yusufov, a friend of Akyshov’s.

Friends say Akyshov was a community leader in the small — about 60 families, Yusufov guessed — but very close-knit Turkmen community in the Seattle area.

A GoFundMe campaign to help his surviving wife and two young daughters, ages 6 and almost 4, has so far raised more than $120,000.

Another friend, Dr. Kakageldi Hommadov, flew into Seattle from Pennsylvania for Akyshov’s funeral. He says they were roommates while he was completing his residency.

“If we were short on the rent, he would take care of it,”  Hommadov said. “He was involved in charities, he had a big heart. He put others in front of himself in the blink of an eye. That’s how he was. He was generous and he had big dreams,” he said.

He said family members from Turkmenistan could not come to the United States for his funeral because of COVID travel restrictions.

“Now it’s our responsibility — friends and the small community in Seattle to take care of his kids, his wife,” Hommadov said.

Akyshov’s friends said it was tough to hear about even more tragedy and other drowning deaths after losing their friend.

The deadly chain of drowning deaths has the U.S. Coast Guard pleading with people to take caution on the water.

“If I could say one thing — that’s wear your life jacket,” said Cmdr. Torrey Bertheau with the U.S. Coast Guard. Bertheau is the chief of response at USCG Sector Puget Sound. “If you have it with you or if it’s stowed, there’s not always time for you to put it on,” he said.

Akyshov was not wearing a life jacket when he drowned. Friends said everyone else on the boat — two other friends and the two girls were all wearing life jackets.

“They all wore life jackets including the kids. His friends (on the boat) said he showed them where the life vests were, but he himself was too confident — that he wouldn’t need it. And he didn’t wear it,” Hommadov said.

Hommadov said he had to refresh his medical knowledge to remind himself of the body’s physiological response to drowning in cold water.

“It doesn’t matter how good of a swimmer you are. Once you hit that cold water you get shock, hypothermia, and apparently you get an involuntary gasping reflex once you are a couple of meters down in the cold water. And that fills up your lungs and takes you down,” Hommadov said.

The USGG is reminding people water temperatures a couple of yards down in deep areas will be much colder than buoy readings, because the sunlight can’t penetrate the water to warm it up.

They say whenever there’s a heat wave — like what we’re experiencing now — calls for their help goes up.

“We have warm air temperature right now but the cold water does not change,” Cmdr. Bertheau said.

Friends of Akyshov are urging you to listen to the warnings.

“People have to be more careful and take lessons from my friend’s story, and the other unfortunate people who have drowned,” Hommadov said.