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Monday, July 11, 2011

Bellingham brothers save man after near-drowning in Lake Chelan


A 27-year-old man was revived by two Bellingham brothers after he nearly drowned during a night swim in Lake Chelan Saturday, July 9.

At about 9:30 p.m., Vay Vong, of Seattle, was swimming back from a floating dock about 100 feet from the north shore of Lake Chelan when a cramp in his leg immobilized him. Unable to keep afloat, and with his swimming partner unable to help him, he sunk about 15 feet to the bottom of the lake, said Tyson Clarke, a 22-year-old University of Washington graduate from Bellingham.

Tyson and his brother, Andrew Clarke, 18, who graduated from Bellingham High School last month, were fishing from a nearby dock when they heard people screaming that their friend was drowning.

The brothers, who are the sons of former Bellingham High principal Steve Clarke, were fully clothed in khaki shorts and sweatshirts, but they kicked off their shoes and dove into the dark water.

Tyson said he couldn't see much on his first dive, and when he surfaced for air he heard people yelling that he should just wait for firefighters to arrive. But by then, he figured, it would be too late.

So he dove again, and as he scanned the bottom of the lake he thought he saw a few bubbles and a small, white light. Thinking it might be some kind of reflection, he dove as deep as he could until he felt the man's fingertips. He then grabbed Vong by the hand and pulled him to the surface, where his brother was waiting with a floating mattress to help him.

"Andrew had just learned CPR in his high school health class," Tyson said. "Apparently he was actually paying attention."
Vong had been submerged for about three minutes and was "ghost-white, with his eyes rolled back in his head" when they lifted him onto the floating dock, Tyson said. But the brothers continued to perform CPR, with help from a lifeguard, and eventually Vong started to breathe again.

Soon after medics arrived, Vong was flown to Central Washington Hospital, where he was listed in critical condition Monday. Clarke said that, from the latest he heard, Vong was beginning to recover and may soon be taken off a machine that is helping him breathe.

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