Mt. Baker, WA – It is with great sadness that we must report a tragic accident on Washington State’s Bellingham, Bay and missing local rider Sean “Donkey” Mansfield, as well as local photographer Gunther Frank. At approximately 1:40 am on Friday, June 5, Bellingham Police responded to a call from a resident, reporting a woman at her door, wet and cold, describing a capsizing. While the police were taking statements another survivor came up the street. The Port Angeles Coast Guard station dispatched a rescue helo along with a cutter from the Bellingham CG station at 2 am. As well, Whatcom County Sheriff, Bellingham Fire, Search and Rescue and US Border Patrol assisted in the search. At approximately 4 am another woman, stranded on a tidal cliff, was rescued by the Coast Guard Cutter. The Coast Guard search continued until 3:30 pm, with volunteer efforts continuing to date. The Whatcom County Sheriff’s department declared the two missing and presumed drowned on Fri, although Sheriff’s boats were seen searching the area again on Saturday.
The sailing group of three men and three women had set out that evening on a sunset sail to Chuckanut Island, a popular moonlight route for local boaters. Upon return, the boat was likely capsized by sudden windshear, when the fair weather turned foul, with north winds of 40-50 mph coming up with immediacy as the boat rounded the Clark’s Point area and headed for the Post Point shoal.
According to reports, two women along with Sean and Gunther attempted to swim for shore, while another man and woman elected to stay with the craft and swim as it got closer to shore. The later two survived along with the two women who set out with Sean and Gunther. The story is still coming to the fore and we will follow up as details emerge.
The boat was found the following morning in the tideline near Post Point, along with a dog, deceased, belonging to one of the survivors.
On Sunday, June 7, a volunter searcher and friend of the two missing found a rudder from Frank’s 18-foot sailboat on Bellingham’s Little Squalicum Beach.
Friends of the two have put up a site to help coordinate volunteer searches and to share info. We encourage anyone who can to offer whatever help they can or support the searchers and family in some way.
Our hearts and thoughts go out to the families, friends, and our community at large, and our hopes remain for a closure. Donkey was one of the most respected and creative riders to grace the slopes of Mt. Baker in the last 15 years. Hailing from second generation timber family in nearby Maple Falls, his dynamic riding soon got the notice of folk like Volcom and Lib Tech, who sponsored The Donk with gear, as well as the Mount Baker Snowboard Shop, where he also had worked in the past.
Donkey’s style was completely his own, and if everyone else was doing 540’s, he’d throw a switch 720 and cork it out along the way. While known as one of the more outgoing and stoked members of the Mt. Baker family, Donkey also had a creative and quieter side, developing an interest and talent in painting over the years.
Gunther Frank, a photographer known for his excellent portraits and music photography, was friends with many of the local riders, and was often a fixture at events.
Both will be deeply, deeply missed. Again, our thoughts are with the families and friends at this time as all hope for a recovery of both men.
We will continue to report on the search effort and any news that develops.
Photo of Sean “Donkey” Mansfield by Mike Yoshida