Paddleboarder drowns in Lake Washington off Mercer Island

MERCER ISLAND, Wash. — Mercer Island police said the body of a paddleboarder, who drowned in Lake Washington just off Luther Burbank Park, was recovered Sunday evening by divers after about an hour-long search.

The 47-year-old man was found in nearly 17 feet of water and is believed to have drowned roughly 30 to 50 yards offshore, just outside and north of a sandy swimming area, according to police.

Police said the first 911 call came in around 5 p.m. and several witnesses jumped into the water to try and help the man but couldn’t.

KIRO 7 spoke with off-duty teen lifeguard Chris Henning, who said he was one of the people who searched for the man before first responders arrived.

“There’s like a group of people and they said that he was yelling, ‘Help! Help!” said Henning. “And fell off his board.”

Henning said he jumped into Lake Washington – a move he didn’t have to think twice about.

“My emotions – I put them aside and I just tried to focus on finding him and helping,” said Henning.

“The visibility was really bad, so we couldn’t find anything.”

Police said the paddleboarder was not wearing a life jacket.

“[He] fell off and struggled to get back on or was not able to swim very well,” said Mercer Island Police Commander Jeff Magnan. “You get tired pretty quick, especially paddleboarding, and in this particular case, I’m not sure if that’s what caused him to go under but you know, a lifejacket would at least keep him on the surface.”

KIRO 7 spoke with several people off-camera who witnesses said had been with the 47-year-old man at the park prior to him drowning. They were visibly distraught and declined an interview.

“You come to the park with your family to have a fun day on the water and one of your family members doesn’t come home,” said Henning. “It’s really sad.”

The King County Medical Examiner’s Office will release the man’s name after confirming the cause and manner of death.

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