Port of Seattle police are trying to determine how a woman whose body was found last week on Blake Island ended up in Puget Sound.
Before the body of 46-year-old Collete Scotta Russell was found Jan. 21 on the shoreline of Blake Island, she was reportedly last seen on a vessel in the Port of Seattle, according to an email from Deputy Scott Wilson, a public-information officer for the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office.
“It’s believed that she was a member of a fishing boat or fishing trawler as a crew member and that boat was moored or docked in Seattle,” Wilson said. “We believe, based on casual conversation, that she somehow fell off the boat.”
Her cause of death has been determined as saltwater drowning, but the manner of death is yet to be confirmed, according to the Kitsap County Coroner’s Office.
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Peter McGraw, a spokesman for the Port of Seattle, said Russell worked for a vessel called the Seafisher owned by Ocean Peace. Russell was reported missing to the Port of Seattle Police Department around 10 a.m. on Jan. 16.
Crew on board the vessel notified authorities she was missing when she did not make her shift as a galley cook, he said. On the day she was reported missing, McGraw said, the vessel on which Russell worked was docked at the Port of Seattle’s Terminal 91.
McGraw could not say how Russell died or whether she was last seen on the vessel.
“The circumstances surrounding her death are currently under investigation by Port of Seattle Police,” he wrote in an email.
Russell’s employer expressed its condolences to those who were close to her.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to Ms. Russell’s family and loved ones,” Corine Rosado, the director of human resources and operations for Ocean Peace, wrote in an email. “We understand the police are investigating and we will have no further comment.”
According to Russell’s fiancé, Mitch Wilson, 51, they had been a couple for 18 years. They lived in Brinnon, Jefferson County, and Russell had been working in the fishing industry even before they met.
Wilson said Russell was a “sweetheart” who was liked by many and “had a smile that would light the whole day up.”
Even though they were engaged for almost 18 years, the couple never got around to having an official wedding ceremony, he said. Wilson said Russell wore both an engagement ring and a wedding band.
She said, ‘I’m not gonna wait to put the other one on,’ and I said, ‘Well, that’s fine,’ ” Wilson said.
Russell was also fond of the outdoors. The couple would go hiking, shrimping, crabbing and camping. She even did a bit of gardening, and the two of them often went for walks.
“I think my favorite thing is she just always woke up with a big smile and lots of energy and wanted to do something,” Wilson said.
Wilson said he plans to take her ashes to a family gathering in Montana in the spring.