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Seattle rescue diver: ‘It was like being in a washing machine’



Three weeks after a boat flipped near Alki Point off Seattle,  divers are only just beginning to share the details of a harrowing underwater rescue.

For at least one of the three divers with the Seattle Fire Department’s Technical Rescue Team, it was the first time he responded to a capsized boat. For all them it was a high-risk operation.

On November 15, an emergency call came in that a boat had capsized and one person missing. Seattle Fire’s Technical Rescue Team quickly launched its boat from a fire station near Coleman Dock and headed to Alki.

Seattle Firefighter and diver Mike Todd remembers the intense wind that kicked up white caps and the frigid air. Todd suited up on the boat ride and started thinking about the missing man.

“When you’re going out there, you say a little prayer for the person who might be involved,” he said.

On that day, it wasn’t a bad idea for firefighters to say a prayer for themselves.

“It was really a high risk operation,” said Lt. Frank Brennan.

The lieutenant would manage the rescue operation topside while working with the Coast Guard. The Guard initially responded to the call and had already plucked three men from the water by the time Seattle Fire’s Technical team arrived.

The men’s boat somehow flipped upside down. Brennan worked with the Coast Guard to keep his divers safe. The choppy waters made it a challenge to keep the Fire Department’s rescue boat positioned with the prop away from those divers.

Firefighter divers encountered a 4,000-pound boat that had turtled. It was bobbing in surging seas with debris from the diving boat everywhere.

“The boat being on surface and having the boat moving around is what made it so dangerous,” said firefighter/diver Colin McElroy. “It would have been easier if the boat was completely submerged.”

Todd put it even more succinctly:

“It was like being in a washing machine,” he said.

The wind was relentless and the air was biting and brisk. The waves topped out at four feet.

Firefighters McElroy and Todd described what looked like an obstacle course.

“It’s not just the waves, but all the debris in the water. It’s the ropes, air lines,straps, everything you would find in a commercial vessel is floating along the water there. It was definitely a different environment than we are used to training in all the time,” McElroy said.

“You just didn’t know what would came in your frame in the next moment. It was like being in a crowded group of people and you didn’t know what was going to come at you next,” Todd said.

Experience diver Anthony Collins was the missing man, and the last place he was seen was in the wheelhouse, which was now upside down and taking on water. Since the hull was still on the water’s surface, rescue divers hoped there might be an air pocket in the wheelhouse.

“If he was still alive he may be trying to survive in that air pocket,” said Lt. Brennan.

The team agreed that the wheelhouse would be a deathtrap for their divers. Their only safe option was to reach through the wheelhouse door and hope Collins would be within reach.

An already risky rescue attempt just got riskier when they learned their underwater radios didn’t work and their only way to communicate was gone. At that point training kicked in and McElroy and Todd headed for the boat’s wheelhouse.

“You could see the patient in there right away,” said McElroy.

They where right, and there was an air pocket in the wheelhouse. Anthony Collins’ head was above the water line and he appeared unresponsive.

“The biggest hazard was the boat coming up and down on us,” said Todd, who remembered the boat rising and crashing down four feet with every wave.

“Anyone of them could have been hit on the head or entangled,” said Lt. Brennan.

Firefighter McElroy couldn’t reach Anthony. Measured but hurried, he inched into the doorway closer to that death trap with every reach.

“Colin was able to get in there — he did a great job. It wasn’t just reaching in and grabbing him, he had to keep trying and keep trying and at the same time the boat is moving up and down and the configuration of his dive equipment he could have easily been stuck in that doorway as well. So he did a great job of staying with the scene and getting a hold of Anthony,” Todd said.

Anthony Collins was unconscious and unresponsive. The Coast Guard air lifted him to Harborview Medical Center.

“Unfortunately for the family, it didn’t go 100 percent how we wanted it to,” said McElroy.

Although Collins had been underwater for nearly an hour, the firefighters were hopeful the air pocket may have saved him.

“We take the risk so the victim will survive and it didn’t happen in this case,” said Lt. Brennan, who insisted it’s a risk Seattle Fire will take every time.

For McElroy it was also a first.

“I’ve never been on a capsized vessel call,” he said. “It’s usually a kayaker in trouble.”

For Mike Todd, the day ended as it began with a prayer.

“You pray for Anthony Collin’s family,” he said.

Seattle Fire’s Technical Rescue Team operates 24/7 and is made up of 27 men and one woman. Seattle Fire says the Coast Guard’s “excellent work” and initial response was vital.



Gear News

New from Fourth Element: the RF2 free diving wetsuit



The team at fourth element have introduced their latest freediving wetsuit, the RF2. Streamlined and high-performance, this two piece 6/5/4/mm suit has been developed for freedivers who want to enjoy maximum freedom and ultimate warmth.

Lined outer panels around the core, arms and legs provide durability, a Glideskin across the shoulders and the hood maximises hydrodynamics. This hybrid freediving wetsuit offers cool and cold water freedivers the freedom to explore their limits in comfort.

Director of fourth element, Paul Strike said, “We’ve designed this suit with the consultation of professional freedivers, instructors and with the knowledge of freedive suit specialists. The RF2 brings together fourth element’s knowledge of thermal protection with freediving expertise at the top of the sport to create a high performance recreational suit.”

The suit is both comfortable and practical, being more durable than traditional smoothskin suits whilst retaining excellent stretch and form fitting design. The inner of the suit has a smooth cell Metalite coating; this provides extra warmth retention and is more robust than traditional open cell.

Daan Verhoeven, Freediving Cameraman said, “The RF2 is possibly the best off-the peg suit I’ve ever tried. As soon as I got in the water, I instantly forgot the suit. I was just comfortable and could move without anything pinching or water coming in.”


  • Streamline cut optimising glide
  • 5mm comfort, flexibility and warmth
  • Open cell interior, lined exterior
  • Smoothskin outer hood and shoulders for extra hydrodynamics
  • Beavertail closure
  • Supratex seat panel for extra durability

RF2 Hooded Jacket and Leggings are available in sizes S – XL.

RF2 Hooded Jacket 6/5/4mm RRP: £229.95 GBP / €275.00 EUR

RF2 Leggings 5/4mm RRP: £149.95 / €179.00 EUR

Find out more at

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Marine Life & Conservation

Parineeti Chopra teams up with PADI to create Ocean Change



PADI® is thrilled to announce an exceptional PADI AmbassaDiver™: Indian actress, singer and PADI Advanced Open Water Diver Parineeti Chopra.

“A PADI AmbassaDiver is someone who is passionate about using their force for good to encourage others to protect our blue planet,” says Kristin Valette Wirth, Chief Brand and Membership Officer. “We could not have found a more respected and authentic partner as Ms. Chopra, a long time ocean lover, to advance our shared mission of saving the ocean. She is unmatched as a shining example of how to protect what you love – and inspire others to do the same.”

Chopra, who has always loved the ocean, experienced the magic beneath the surface in 2013 when she took her first breath underwater in Bali. As soon as she surfaced from that dive, she was hooked – and protecting the ocean became very personal for her, receiving her PADI Open Water Diver certification later that year in Palau. Since then, she has inspired others around the world, from her family and friends to fans in India– to try scuba diving so they can join her in seeking adventure and saving the ocean.

“The first time I came up to the surface after diving, I was crying because it was such a life-changing experience,” says Ms. Chopra. “It is now something I can’t live without. I make sure I do a diving trip every three months despite my work schedule because it is my form of meditation. And it is the place I am immensely passionate about protecting.”

“We are all equal underwater and all speak the same language. Over the years I have seen the changes that have taken place beneath the surface. During my time as a brand ambassador for Tourism Australia, I witnessed the bleaching and damage that has occurred to the Great Barrier Reef.  I was so sad to see this and am now committed to being a diver with a purpose. I have also seen first-hand how marine reserves, like the ones in Sipadan, Malaysia and Palau, prove how valuable marine protected areas are. As a PADI Diver, I want to make sure that our entire blue planet gets the protection it deserves.” continues Ms. Chopra.

With over 67 million social media followers and having recently starred in the Netflix movie The Girl on the Train, Chopra joins an elite group of celebrity influencers determined to take personal action and create real change for healthier oceans. Spending nearly all her free time diving around the world, Chopra shares her love for the ocean with her fans, as diving is an important part of her life that allows her to return to nature and reset. She will work with PADI to encourage others to experience the beautiful world underwater as PADI Divers and join her in helping to achieve balance between humanity and the ocean.

“PADI created the AmbassaDiver programmeme to support extraordinary divers who dedicate their lives to illuminating the path that leads from curiosity, exploration, and discovery to understanding, stewardship and action. Ms. Chopra is playing a very important role in ocean conservation, lighting the way for others to become divers themselves and mobilising communities worldwide to seek adventure and save the ocean with her,” continues Valette Wirth.

Ms. Chopra has big plans for 2022 – including becoming a real-life PADI Mermaid and taking part in citizen science projects during her dive trips around the world. Follow Chopra’s dive adventures, projects and hands-on conservation efforts with PADI on her Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

To learn more about Chopra and the rest of the PADI AmbassaDiver team visit

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Book and stay before the end of June and benefit from no single supplements in all room types!

Booking deadline: Subject to availability – book and stay before end of June 2022

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