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Diver went missing in area known for dangerous currents

Personnel from the Bainbridge Island Fire Department and Washington State Patrol watch from a command center on South Beach as the search for a missing diver continues Tuesday. - Brian Kelly / Bainbridge Island Review
Personnel from the Bainbridge Island Fire Department and Washington State Patrol watch from a command center on South Beach as the search for a missing diver continues Tuesday.
— image credit: Brian Kelly / Bainbridge Island Review

A small group of police and fire department workers watched from the beachside pathway of a private home on South Beach Drive as the search for a missing diver in Rich Passage continued Tuesday afternoon.

In another hour, a stark shift would come in the search: The mission would change from a rescue operation, to a recovery.

Sometime before 3 p.m. July 24, a diver with the state Department of Natural Resources was reported missing in the waters off the south end of Bainbridge Island.

Doug Ridgeway, a fish feeder at the American Gold Seafood fish  farm, said emergency responders from the Bainbridge Island Fire Department first gathered at the company's pier near South Beach before they shifted their command center east, closer to where the diver was last seen.

Seven divers from American Gold Seafood went out to help in the initial phase of the search, and three boats from the company were used to shuttle fire department personnel to the Leschi, a fire boat from the Seattle Fire Department, that was stationed near the center of the search area.

The waters where the diver went missing are known for treacherous currents.

"That's one of the most turbulent spots, for sure," Ridgeway said.

Volunteer divers returning from the search said they had looked for the missing diver in water that was 74 to 84 feet deep.

"It was a smoking ebb," diver Gabe Graham said of the tide.

John Watters, site manager at the fish farm, said the missing diver reportedly told others he was having difficulty.

"He came up, said he was in trouble and went back down again," Watters said.

Bainbridge Island Fire Department Assistant Chief Jared Moravec said civilian divers and divers from the Seattle Fire Department had searched without success for the missing diver, as well as emergency responders in vessels where the diver had last been seen.

A Coast Guard helicopter assisted the search from the air, and Navy divers were also called to the scene.

Authorities have not identified the missing diver.

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