Northwest NEWS

February 8, 1999

Front Page

Man drowns in Sammamish River accident

body recovered comfort
Above left, a white sheet covers the body of Allen Washington.The body was recovered from the Sammamish River by King County Sheriff's Department divers last Tuesday morning. The accidental drowning followed the victim's 2 a.m. swim in the frigid waters of the river where it flows through Bothell. Above right, relatives grieve after Bothell police covered Washington's body with a sheet.
Staff photos by Andrew Walgamott.

by Andrew Walgamott, staff reporter

   BOTHELL--As police unfolded the white speck from the size of a handkerchief to the size of a flag and then a sheet, two male relatives of the missing man upriver recognized it for what it was and broke into tears.

   They hugged each other as the shroud was draped over the body divers had just recovered from the cold depths of the Sammamish River.

   The body was later identified as Allen Washington, 40, of Bothell. He'd gone for a swim in the rain-swollen river in the early hours of Feb. 2 and disappeared. Washington's body was recovered eight hours later about 150 yards downstream from where police believe he entered the river.

   A man who identified himself as Washington's brother said the victim had been a good swimmer, had grown up in the area and knew the Sammamish. The man had held out hope that his brother was still alive until the sheet was draped over the body.

   Pending further tests, the King County Medical Examiner wasn't releasing a cause of death yet. A spokesman was not at liberty to discuss the nature of the tests.

   According to a Bothell Police spokesman, Washington had been drinking with roommates at the Riverside Mobile Estates in the 11400 block of Riverside Drive in Bothell. Police say he went for a walk with his fiancée and they came to the Sammamish, where he wanted to go for a swim at about 2 a.m. The woman said no, but Washington went in, police say.

   The woman went back to the home and returned with a brother and a friend, but Washington was carried downstream and disappeared from sight shortly afterwards. A police dog was brought in, in hopes of finding the man along the shores. At about 5 a.m., a King County Sheriff's boat and divers arrived on the scene and scanned the water and shores with spotlights.

   With daylight, a diver, tethered to the boat, began working downstream from the point Washington entered the water. Stoked by recent rains, the fast-moving current was creating a dust storm of sorts and limiting visibility, reported the diver, Deputy J. W. McMeins.

   Divers concentrated on the southern side of the river, searching out places where the current may have dropped the body. After a change of divers, it was found at about 10 a.m. just behind a dock where the river swings sharply to the west.

   Overcome with grief, a woman believed to be Washington's fiancée had to be carried away from the scene.

   It was a senseless tragedy, but was something health officials have seen time and again. According Tony Gomez of the Seattle-King County Department of Health, 41 percent (7 of 17) of drownings in King County last year were alcohol-related. He said alcohol "impairs judgment, skills, and resuscibility."

   Washington's was the second Sammamish drowning in the past three years. In early 1996, an 18-year-old man was pushed off an old railroad trestle in Bothell and drowned.

   Gomez, who manages the department's violence and injuries programs, was surprised to see a drowning so early in the year. "Typically, these happen before summer weather--in April or May--and involve high school or college students," he said.

   Gomez said there are usually 24-26 drowning deaths a year, though efforts to reduce those seem to be paying off, pointing to a total of 36 such deaths in 1992. He said life jackets are key to reducing deaths and is working on a children's lifejacket bill in Olympia.