King County has a new boat for river, flood rescues

VIDEO: King County Marine Rescue

SEATTLE — The King County Sheriff's Marine Rescue and Dive Unit has a new tool to save lives on local waters.

KIRO-7 got an exclusive look at the new jet boat on Friday.

It is designed to operate in shallow water and will be used to rescue drowning victims and people stranded in floodwaters.

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"When this boat is up on plane at cruising speed it can go in as little as 3-inches of water. When it's sitting in the water the draft is 6-8 inches," explained Sgt. Mark Rorvik, King County Sheriff's Marine Rescue Dive Unit.


"It has a special coating on the bottom which allows it to slide over rocks, logs, sandbars, and other debris and it protects it from damage."

The 21 foot boat goes up to 50 miles per hour and can carry 3,000 pounds, people and supplies

The jet boat will make rescues safer for first responders, they might not need to get in the water in their swiftwater gear.

King County had seen an increase in drownings, in 2015, 17 people drowned, in 2016 it jumped to 22.

But with a strong message to stay out of the rivers this year, King County's marine unit says it's only responded to two drownings so far this year.

The boat cost $85,000 dollars. The cost was split by the Sheriff's Office and the King County Flood Control District.

King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn, who is also the chair of  the King County Flood Control District, checked out the boat on Friday along with King County Sheriff John Urquhart.

"We are in Seattle, a flood prone area of the United States. In addition to flood insurance and making sure you're safe in a flood event, we want to make sure we have the emergency tools that are available. This is one that will help big time moving forward and will safe lives. This boat will save lives," said Dunn.

"It makes it safer because we can get to people in distress so much easier. In the old days we had to go upstream, up river in kayaks or something similar, paddle down to the person who needed our help. Now we can get to them much easier," said King County Sheriff John Urquhart.

When a budget shortfall threatened to ax the King County Sheriff Marine Rescue Dive Unit the flood control district stepped in to help keep it afloat, chipping in half the operating cost, and half of the cost of the $85,000 dollar new boat.

Dunn said he's paid attention to the damage from Hurricane Harvey in Houston.

"That is a worst case scenario but it is not something that couldn't happen here. If we had a 100 to 200 year flood event and we had critical flood infrastructure fail, we would be looking at many pockets of King County were we could see that level of devastation," said Dunn.