Bellingham man dies in diving accident on San Juan Island

A crew member of a Lummi fishing boat died Thursday morning while diving for sea cucumbers in Griffin Bay on San Juan Island.

According to the San Juan County Sheriff's Department, the 47-year-old Bellingham man, Albert B. Hillaire, began complaining about having difficulty breathing while ascending from about 70 feet below the surface of the bay, near Dinner Island.

Hilliare reportedly collapsed while trying to climb back onboard the boat and fell backwards into the water. He had worked as a commercial diver for a bout a year before the fatal accident, Sheriff Rob Nou said.

The sheriff's office received a 9-1-1 call from the two other men onboard the boat at about 10:35 a.m. The man was rescued from the water by fellow crew members, who started CPR and tried to revive him as the boat made a beeline for the boat ramp at Jackson's Beach.

At the ramp, the boat was met by San Juan EMS and emergency responders, who were unable to resuscitate the man. He was pronounced dead at the scene at 11:13 a.m.

The diver appears to have been appropriately equipped and alcohol or drugs do not appear to have been a factor in the fatality, according to the sheriff's department.

An autopsy will be conducted by the Snohomish County Medical Examiner, and the circumstances and cause of the man's death remain under investigation by the sheriff's department and San Juan County Coroner.


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