Submitted by San Juan County Prosecutor’s Office
A man from California was reported missing from the ferry Yakima after it traveled from Lopez to Anacortes on New Year’s Eve. His wife reports that he has not been seen or heard from in the two weeks since that day and she believes he jumped from the vessel.
Michael Gentile, age 59, of Lakewood, California, was with his wife Genevieve and teenage son on a trip to Seattle and they decided to spend the day on Lopez Island on Dec. 31, 2020. After visiting Lopez Island for the day, they drove aboard the delayed 4:20 p.m. sailing from Lopez to Anacortes with plans to return to their hotel in Seattle. Gentile got out of the car, the last one in the parking lane and 20 minutes later he was not seen again.
Upon arrival in Anacortes, Gentile unexpectedly did not return to the car. When the ferry unloaded in Anacortes, his wife notified the ferry workers that Gentile was not with them and a thorough search was made of the vessel and ferry terminal.
Soon thereafter, a helicopter was involved in the search, and the United States Coast Guard began searching the waters of the Salish Sea on the ferry route, all to no avail. The Washington State Patrol responded, and an investigation was made from their office in Burlington, Skagit County.
Prosecuting Attorney/Coroner Randall Gaylord said that because Gentile was last known to be alive in San Juan County, the county sheriff and county coroner here have jurisdiction and responsibilities. Sheriff Ron Krebs said that a Gentile has been reported to the national database of missing persons and coordination has been made with colleagues in Canada with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the British Columbia Coroner’s Service.
“We have learned that persons with or without personal floatation can travel long distances in the currents and winds of these waters,” Krebs said. “Sometimes they are found, sometimes not,” he added. Sheriff Krebs asked that beach walkers and boaters be aware of the missing person and report if they see something useful.
Gaylord said that as coroner, his office has issued “presumed” death certificates when there is sufficient circumstantial evidence that a person has died, and the remains will not be recovered. In most cases, the person is witnessed to have entered the water and not returned to the surface.
“We move slowly to presume a death from a vessel that is not witnessed or recorded on security cameras because in the early days there is a possibility that the missing person will be found,” Gaylord said.
Anyone who traveled on that sailing of the Yakima who may have information regarding Gentile is requested to contact the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office Dispatcher at 360-378-4151. Gentile is reported to be 5 feet and 9 inches tall, about 160 pounds, with brown eyes and brown hair. He was last seen wearing a black and red plaid jacket, grey shirt, beige pants and tennis shoes.