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San Juan Island aviator extraordinaire dead, at 72

Fifth-generation islander and aviator extraordinaire Denny Martel died Sunday, Feb. 16.

He was 72.

Martel, owner and operator of San Juan Island-based Martel Well Drilling, founded 50 years ago by his father, Edward, was an accomplished aviator, in addition to being a highly regarded professional in his field, renowned and celebrated for small aircraft "short take offs."

He was known by family and friends as a "Jack of All Trades."

"He was pilot and a very, very good pilot, a bit of a daredevil you might say," said Kitty Roberts, a longtime family friend. "But he knew what he was doing, that's for sure."

According to Charlie Silverman of the San Juan County Prosecuting Attorney's Office, which doubles as county coroner, Martel was dead at the scene and lying near his pickup when a family member discovered his body Sunday evening.

The cause of death will be categorized as unknown natural causes and no autopsy is planned, Silverman said.

"It looks as if he went out to cut some wood, something that he liked to do, and suffered a fatal medical event," he said.

Martel is the father of two adult children, Tara and Justin, and several grandchildren.

— Editor's note: more information will be added to this article when available.

 

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