Coast Guardsmen remember shipmates who gave all in La Push, Washington

A memorial wreath with a the words “Gone But Never Forgotten” stands in front of the permanent memorial honoring three crewmembers from Coast Guard Station Quillayute River who lost their lives during a rescue mission 18 years ago, in La Push, Wash., Feb. 12, 2015. Petty Officer 2nd Class David Bosley, Petty Officer 3rd Class Matthew Schlimme and Seaman Miniken were ejected from their lifeboat when it capsized while the crew was responding to a sinking sailboat and did not survive the incident. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Master Chief Charles LIndsey.

A memorial wreath with a the words “Gone But Never Forgotten” stands in front of the permanent memorial honoring three crewmembers from Coast Guard Station Quillayute River who lost their lives during a rescue mission 18 years ago, in La Push, Wash., Feb. 12, 2015. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Master Chief Charles LIndsey.

Story by Petty Officer 3rd Class Katelyn Shearer

Eighteen years ago this week, four brave men did what thousands of Coast Guard members do every day: put their lives in danger to save others.

Three of them paid the ultimate price.

On Feb. 12, 1997, three crewmembers from Coast Guard Station Quillayute River in La Push, Washington, lost their lives during a rescue mission.

“I enjoyed every one of them,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Sarah Zurflueh, who served at Station Quillayute River from 1995 to 1997. “Our crew at the time was small. We were family.”

Zurflueh, now a storekeeper at Coast Guard Base Kodiak, Alaska, remembers her former shipmates fondly.

“All of them had good qualities,” she said. “Each of them had goals they were looking forward to accomplishing. It made the tragedy that much greater.”

In the early morning hours of Feb. 12, 1997, the search-and-rescue alarm went off at Coast Guard Station Quiallyute River in La Push, Washington. The Gale Runner, a 31-foot sailboat with two people aboard, was taking on water and in danger of crashing into the rocks.

Petty Officer 2nd Class David Bosley, Petty Officer 3rd Class Matthew Schlimme, Seaman Clinton Miniken and Seaman Apprentice Benjamin Wingo launched a 44-foot Motor Life Boat into the 20-foot seas, howling winds and heavy rain.

Shortly after the crew crossed the bar, the lifeboat suddenly rolled over three times. Bosley, Schlimme and Miniken were thrown from the vessel.

Crewmembers from Coast Guard Station Quillayute River in La Push, Wash., prepare to lay a wreath into the water in honor of three crewmembers who lost their lives during a rescue mission in 1997, Feb. 12, 2015. At the time of the incident, the three crewmembers were the first Coast Guardsmen to lose their lives in 30 years.  U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy of Coast Guard Station Quillayute River.

Crewmembers from Coast Guard Station Quillayute River in La Push, Wash., prepare to lay a wreath into the water in honor of three crewmembers who lost their lives during a rescue mission in 1997, Feb. 12, 2015. U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy of Coast Guard Station Quillayute River.

Wingo abandoned the lifeboat, climbed on to a rock formation and fired rescue flares into the air.

An HH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew from Coast Guard Air Station Port Angeles, Washington, arrived on scene and safely hoisted the two people from the Gale Runner.

Coast Guard personnel and local agencies began searching for the crew of the motor lifeboat. Though all four of the crewmembers were found, Wingo was the only survivor.

Shortly after the incident, a permanent memorial was erected in honor of those who lost their lives that day. It continues to greet crewmembers and station visitors alike, a reminder of those who are gone, but never forgotten.

Every year on the anniversary of the incident, the crew at Station Quillayute River holds a memorial ceremony. This year, Zurflueh requested that the station fly a special national ensign; one that she will receive at her retirement ceremony this fall.

“Having the station fly my retirement flag on that day was an honor for me,” said Zurflueh. “Time does heal, but I will always think of them.”

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2 Responses

  1. Melissa Miniken says:

    Clint Miniken is my brother. It’s nice to know he is still honored.

  2. Mamahen says:

    I graduated with Clint and worked at a Dairy Queen with him. He was always kind. I am sorry for your family’s loss, Melissa.