Alcohol-fueled fight preceded Bellingham captain’s death

Don Mierzeski was found in the waters of Blakely Island Marina, indicated on the map with a red arrow.

Updated: 7:24 p.m., 11.14.11

Authorities say a Bellingham captain who died last weekend was involved in an alcohol-fueled altercation with his crew shortly before his death, but that the two incidents do not appear to be related.

Don Mierzeski, 42, was found by divers submerged in the waters of Blakely Island Marina at about 3:30 p.m. Saturday, after last being seen at about 12:30 a.m. walking down the dock toward his J/35 boat, Shirker, with a crew member.

San Juan County Undersheriff Jon Zerby said the sheriff’s office was called to the marina late Friday night about a fight among the crew, who had planned to race with Mierzeski in the annual two-day Round the County regatta on Saturday and Sunday. 

Zerby said Mierzeski and several of his crew members had gotten into an altercation that involved shouting and yelling, but the fight was broken up by the time deputies arrived and no one wanted to press charges.

Zerby attributed the argument to “too much alcohol,” saying the crew members involved couldn’t recall exactly what started it.

“They were partying hearty,” he said. “It was a bunch of friends who got into a stupid argument.”

One crew member was told he wasn’t welcome back on the boat, Zerby said, and took refuge in the marina’s laundry room before being taken to Orcas Island by sheriff’s deputies, where he caught a morning ferry back to Bellingham.

Zerby said the crew member who was walking back to the boat with Mierzeski does not appear to have been involved in the altercation. The crew member stepped onto the boat and went down below but when Mierzeski didn’t follow, went back outside a few minutes and couldn’t find him.

When deputies arrived, Mierzeski was reporting missing. Zerby said it appears that his death was not connected to the altercation and foul play is not suspected.

“It sounds like he was out there by himself and probably just fell,” he said.

The results of an autopsy on Mierzeski are expected to be released later this week, Zerby said, and toxicology results will likely be released in about three to four weeks.

Mierzeski is survived by his wife, Tina, and a young son, Reed.


2 Responses to Alcohol-fueled fight preceded Bellingham captain’s death

  1. G December 28, 2011 at 7:43 am #

    Don was the Man, he will be missed

  2. Gary November 29, 2011 at 6:29 pm #

    It’s never welcome news to hear about an inexperienced let alone an experience sailor loosing his life. My condolences to his family and friends…

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