Drowning at Penrose Point State Park

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A woman in her late 40s died by drowning in the saltwater pond at Penrose Point State Park in Lakebay Oct. 17. Her identity had not been made public by press time.

The Key Peninsula Fire Department was dispatched to Penrose at approximately 11:30 a.m. Volunteer Battalion Chief Anne Nesbit was the first to arrive, since she was in the area. Bystanders directed her to a tidal embayment a few hundred yards southeast of the main parking lot where they’d heard a woman calling for help.

The victim had been dragged out of the pond by her companion, who also called 911 and was yelling for help. Nesbit began CPR and was soon joined by other medics and the battalion chief on duty. The victim was transported to St. Anthony Hospital in Gig Harbor, where she was pronounced dead.

According to her companion, the two were throwing toys into the saltwater pond for their dogs to chase. The victim entered the pond to retrieve a toy and yelled to her companion that “she was struggling” and went under the surface. Her companion entered the water, pulled the victim out, and dialed 911 while yelling to other park visitors for help. 

“The 911 caller did an amazing job of getting her companion to shore; she did everything right and was key in getting help quickly,” said Nesbit, who is also the KPFD public information officer. “No one out with their dogs, enjoying Penrose, expects the day to end in tragedy and loss. My heart goes out to the friends and family.”

The pond is open to Puget Sound only at high tide. The surface warms up on sunny days, like Saturday Oct. 17, but it becomes rapidly deeper and colder just a few feet from shore. Exposure to cold water can quickly incapacitate even experienced swimmers with a shock response that causes uncontrollable gasping and inhalation of water and a sudden loss of blood pressure that can lead to death.

KPFD offers free CPR, first aid, and other classes on how to respond to an emergency. For more information call 253-884-2222.