Firefighters with Mountainview Fire and Rescue 94 say 33-year-old Peter Phan had put his life preserver on his companion and tied her ankle to her paddle board before they went out onto Lake Cle Elum on that fateful Saturday, July 6.
To ease the fears of the young woman, who was afraid of the water.
Phan and his friend were paddling off the northeast shore of the lake when rough conditions knocked them from their boards. A nearby jet ski pulled Phan’s friend from the water, but rescuers could not find Phan, a volunteer firefighter with Mountain View Fire and Rescue 94 in Auburn.
According to the Kittitas County sheriff’s office, divers found the off-duty firefighter three days later, about 50 yards off shore in the area where witnesses had last seen him.
Colleagues at Mountain View Fire and Rescue are grieving the loss of a man whom they described as a “happy person, always smiling. “
“Two boards, one life preserver. If there had been two, he’d probably be with us today,” said Greg Smith, captain of Mountainview Fire and Rescue 94.
Divers from the Kittitas, Yakima and King County Sheriff’s Offices worked with Kittitas County Search and Rescue using underwater remote cameras, trained cadaver dogs and Side Scan Sonar to find him.
In 2016, Phan joined Mountain View Fire as an emergency medical technician and resident volunteer firefighter at Station 94 in Auburn.
“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, and it’s something I’m going to do,” said Phan, then a 26-year-old Algona resident who underwent three four-hour dialysis sessions each week at the Auburn Kidney Center. “Not a lot of people with my condition are able to do this. I want to prove I can do this.”
Phan finished the marathon in 5 hours, 41 minutes and 25 seconds, 1,247th overall in a field of 11,007 competitors.
Phan’s family will hold a private service.