Submitted by Orcas Island Fire and Rescue.
An Orcas Island man who went missing from his residence near Moran State Park on Monday, Dec. 30 was found alive the following day after spending 18 hours in the wind and rain, with temperatures dipping into the mid-40s.
James Keyes, age 67, wandered away from his house just before he was to go out with his wife for their routine afternoon walk at 3:30 p.m. He was wearing a vest and blue fleece jacket, which was helpful in identifying his location on the ground during the search. Keyes, who has limited use of his arms and a history of becoming confused and disoriented, fell in the woods near his home and was unable to get up and back to safety.
The search, which included participation from 15 different agencies, had tremendous support. More than 30 search and rescue members were on the ground from throughout the region, including four tracking dogs from Summit to Sound Search and Rescue. The area was comprised of steep and rocky terrain with forest land, thick brush and downed trees. In addition to topography, crews were challenged by darkness, thick fog, winds and rain.
After a grueling night in the elements, Keyes was located on an 86-acre parcel owned by the San Juan County Land Bank near his home. Cold and wet, he was found by search and rescue crews laying alongside a log where he had fallen. Once located, the team worked to extricate him using a stokes basket and transported him back to his residence for evaluation.
Battalion Chief Nick Kiniski, who held command throughout the incident, shared his gratitude for all involved.
“We couldn’t have asked for a better outcome. Thank you all very much for taking the time to travel out here and help,” he said.
Orcas Island Fire and Rescue would like to recognize and extend a thank you to the following agencies for their time and resources throughout this event: Washington State Department of Emergency Management; San Juan County Department of Emergency Management; San Juan County Sheriff’s Office; San Juan County Dispatch; Washington State Parks Rangers; Skagit County Sheriff’s Office; U.S. Naval Air Station, Whidbey Island; U.S. Coast Guard; Summit to Sound Search and Rescue; Whatcom County Search and Rescue; Snohomish County Search and Rescue; Skagit County Search and Rescue; Lopez Island Fire and Rescue and San Juan Island Fire and Rescue.