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Whatcom Chief ferry captain and crew receive State award for heroic rescue

Whatcom Chief making the crossing from Gooseberry Point to Lummi Island (July 24, 2015). Photo: My Ferndale News
Whatcom Chief making the crossing from Gooseberry Point to Lummi Island (July 24, 2015). Photo: Whatcom News

SPOKANE, Wash. — Today, the Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) and the Governor’s Industrial Safety and Health Advisory Board are honoring 14 Washington workers as part of the 70th annual Governor’s Industrial Safety and Health Conference. Included are a captain and 2 crewmembers of the Whatcom Chief ferry.

According to L&I, on the night of July 16, 2020, ferry Captain Gary Poole noticed a kayak in the distance while the ferry was making the trip from Gooseberry Point to Lummi Island. Poole thought it odd a kayak would be that far off from shore and kept an eye on it. During the return trip, Poole noticed there had been no movement of the kayak. He maneuvered the ferry off its normal course to investigate.

As the ferry approached, it became clear to Poole the kayak was empty. Paddles were seen floating nearby as were 2 people, a young man not wearing a life vest and child who was wearing a life vest. Deck crew Tom Phillips and Doug Cash pulled the kayakers onto the ferry, warmed them up and assessed their conditions.

When the ferry arrived at the Gooseberry Point ferry terminal, the young man and child were reunited with an older family member. Poole’s awareness of his surroundings and the quick and professional actions of the ferry crew were being recognized for a safe and happy ending to a kayak trip that could have ended in tragedy.

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The other 11 award winners being honored this year include workers who performed CPR and used an automated external defibrillator to help jump start a worker’s heart after they suffered a cardiac arrest, stabilized a worker suffering a seizure and transported a co-worker with a completely blocked artery to the hospital.

To be eligible for a Lifesaving Award, the heroic act must have occurred during work hours and the nominee must have performed hands-on aid.

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