OCEAN PARK and NORTH COVE — Nearly a day of searching ended tragically Saturday evening when the bodies of two women were recovered in Pacific and Grays Harbor counties after they drowned in separate incidents on either side of the mouth of Willapa Bay.
These sad events came to official attention at around 9 p.m. Friday when two incidents of persons lost in the surf while clam digging in two separate locations were reported to Pacific County Sheriff’s PACCOM 911 Communications Center within four minutes of each other. Both victims were female, and were accompanied by their spouses, according to a Saturday evening press release from the Pacific County Sheriff’s Office.
The first call came in at 8:57 p.m. from the Oysterville beach approach north of Ocean Park. A 70-year-old female was lost in the surf while digging clams. PCSO staff along with South Pacific County Technical Rescue (Surf Rescue) was immediately dispatched to search the area. The U.S. Coast Guard was unable to respond immediately due to rough surf and weather conditions. However, they were later able to assemble a ground search crew to the area to work with other responders from PCSO, SPCTR, Washington State Parks, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Pacific County Fire District #1.
Although the sheriff’s office did not name her, this drowning victim was identified by friends on social media earlier Saturday as Jeri Reinke.
A second call came in at 9:01 p.m., with a 61-year-old female from Toledo reported as missing in the surf near the Warrenton Cannery Road in the community of North Cove, just north of the mouth of Willapa Bay. The victim had also been digging clams with her husband when the two became separated earlier in the evening. Rescue personnel from several agencies were immediately dispatched to the scene and began searching the area. The North Cove victim has not been named.
The drowning locations are roughly eight miles apart by water, but about two hours drive from one another by highway.
The body of the missing Ocean Park woman was located at 5 p.m. Saturday near Westport in Grays Harbor County. The body of the missing Toledo woman was located between the Cranberry and Midway beach approaches in Pacific County.
The sheriff’s office observed, “These incidents serve as a tragic reminder that one must always be vigilant of the powerful surf and waves that are often present on our ocean beaches. Always stay close to other clammers, bring a flashlight or lantern, a waterproof cell phone, and never turn your back on the surf as ‘sneaker waves’ can appear at any time.”