HI I WAS WEB BROWSING AND SEEN THIS MY NAME IS CRYSTAL HINKLE THE NIECE OF HOWARD HINKLE MY FAMILY SUFFERS EVERYDAY OF THE LOSE OF MY UNCLE READING THIS STORY THAT THE NEWSREPORTERS WROTE IS HELPED US GET BY BUT NOW WE HAVE ? WE WANT TO BEILVE THAT HAPPEN BUT WE THINK SOMETHING ELSE HAPPEN THANKS FOR YOUR TIME
Investigators can only speculate on what led to the deaths of three Fort Lewis soldiers in Willapa Bay, on southwest Washington's coast.
Dressed in casual clothes and wearing life preservers, the bodies of Sgt. First Class David Eville, First Sgt. Howard Hinkle and Sgt. First Class Robert Hulin were found at about 9 a.m. yesterday by Coast Guard helicopters.
Hinkle and Eville were members of the 1st Special Forces Group, while Hulin was in the 25th Infantry Division, according to a Fort Lewis news release. The Army did not disclose their ages or hometowns.
One was recovered from a mud flat about three miles south of Bay Center, on the east side of the bay.
The other two were on the western side of the bay near Leadbetter Point, about 75 yards apart. The men appeared to have died of hypothermia — a lowering of body temperature.
In 55-degree water, the temperature of Willapa Bay yesterday, hypothermia takes between two and five hours, according to Coast Guard figures.
Their 20-foot boat had been spotted Saturday at 9 p.m. by a Bay Center woman who noticed it sitting upright on a mud flat at low tide, with no one aboard.
Inside the boat were a portable Global Positioning Unit, a cooler with uneaten lunches, binoculars, a first-aid kit and fishing gear.
One of the fishing rods was rigged with an orange flag, indicating the men may have tried to signal for help.
There was less than a foot of water in the boat.
The woman reported the boat's registration number, printed on the hull, to the Coast Guard. The wife of boat owner David Eville was then telephoned. She said her husband and two friends had left Olympia, where the Evilles live, at 3:30 a.m. Saturday. The men apparently drove to Westport and launched the boat around 6 a.m., a time deduced from the fact that the Coast Guard closed the Grays Harbor bar at 7:30 a.m. to vessels under 26 feet due to rough conditions.
After the boat was discovered Saturday night, a Coast Guard Jayhawk helicopter was dispatched from Astoria.
Using night-vision goggles and a thermal-imaging system that detects heated objects, the five men aboard the helicopter searched Willapa Bay throughout the night, stopping only to refuel. A second Jayhawk from Astoria arrived after daylight and began searching the Pacific Ocean west of Willapa Bay.
"The mystery that everybody would like to know" the answer to, said Lt. Andy Eriks, a pilot aboard the second Coast Guard helicopter, which recovered two of the bodies, "is why would they leave the boat."
Circumstantial evidence gives only a hint of what might have happened. The signal flag. The cord on the secondary trolling motor that was pulled out as if someone had tried to start it, suggesting the possibility of engine problems.
The fact all three men had a chance to don life preservers.
But why were they out of the boat? Eriks thinks it may have been because of rough sea conditions at the mouth of Willapa Bay, which is pocked with shifting sand bars that, depending on waves, currents and wind, can toss up formidable waves.
The Coast Guard reported that seas were running 8 feet at the time of the accident, with a northwest wind of 15 knots.
"It can really get churned up out there, like a washing machine effect," Eriks said. "It can be tough to navigate for anyone. If you haven't done it before or grown up on the bay, getting in and out safely can be very difficult. With any amount of swell and surface chop, the chances are very high of your vessel being tipped over or running aground or both."
The men may have jumped ship to try to swim to shore or to avoid being aboard when a capsize appeared imminent, Eriks speculated.
After almost two decades in the Coast Guard, Eriks has been stationed at Astoria, flying rescue helicopters, the past two years. "Sure, it looks inviting," he said of the ocean. "Everybody likes to fish or be in and around the water, but you just can't take a chance out there."
He said the boat didn't have a radio or flares, two of the essential safety items (life preservers are the third) that every vessel should carry.
Another caveat: Stay with a vessel, Eriks said, even if it capsizes, because it is much easier to spot from the air than a swimmer