Seattle teacher killed in Lake Washington boat collision
A Renton real-estate agent has been booked into the King County Jail for investigation of homicide in connection with the death of a beloved schoolteacher on Lake Washington on Wednesday.
Seattle Times staff reporter
A 33-year-old woman who was killed in a boating accident on Lake Washington on Wednesday night was a Seattle schoolteacher, her father said.
Melissa Protz was an adventurer whose wanderlust took her from her home in small-town Wisconsin to Australia and eventually Seattle, a city she adopted and adored for its natural beauty, John Protz said.
Melissa Protz was on a sailboat that collided with a speedboat near Leschi. She was thrown into Lake Washington and died.
The operator of the speedboat, a Renton real-estate agent, has been booked into the King County Jail for investigation of homicide in connection with the collision. Police say they believe alcohol was a factor in the crash.
“She was such a vibrant person, so well-loved. She loved the outdoors,” said John Protz, speaking from the family home in Egg Harbor, Wis., a resort town on a peninsula between Lake Michigan and Green Bay. “This is such a tragedy, anything you say is small potatoes.”
Melissa Protz taught at Assumption-St. Bridget School in Ravenna, her father said. According to the school website, she taught middle-school science at the private school.
She had previously worked as a veterinary technician, her father said.
“She loved the kids, she loved teaching, she loved the subject matter,” he said.
The eldest of the two Protz children, Melissa attended the University of Wisconsin before transferring to James Cook University in Queensland, Australia. She obtained her Master in Teaching degree from Seattle University, John Protz said.
She lived in Seattle with her loyal companion, an Australian shepherd, her father said.
“It’s tough when a life is snuffed out like that. We’re the ones worse off,” John Protz said.
The 46-year-old suspect, who is not being identified by The Seattle Times because he has not had a probable-cause hearing, was arrested early Thursday morning, a few hours after the fatal crash.
A police spokesman said that based on his behavior after the crash, and the smell of alcohol detected on him, investigators believe drinking was a factor.
According to Seattle police, the man’s speedboat collided with a sailboat near the 400 Block of Lake Washington Boulevard just after 10:30 p.m. Both boats were moving just before the collision, police said.
Three of the seven people on the sailboat fell into water, said Seattle Fire Department spokesman Kyle Moore.
Two others, a man in his early 40s and a woman in her early 30s, were taken to Harborview Medical Center. The man remained in serious condition in the intensive-care unit Thursday; the woman was treated and released, according to hospital spokeswoman Susan Gregg.
None of the four people who were on the powerboat fell into the water, according to reports.
While the suspect was booked into jail for investigation of homicide, prosecutors may add an impaired-boating element to charges, said police spokesman Drew Fowler. A blood draw to determine possible intoxication was taken from the man before he was booked into jail, he said. Results are pending.
“When officers encountered the man [on Wednesday night] they believed he was intoxicated because of his actions and the smell,” Fowler said.
In 2002, the man was arrested for investigation of DUI and reckless driving in King County. When evidence of the level of alcohol content in his system was suppressed in court, prosecutors amended his charge to reckless driving, according to documents filed in King County District Court.
The man pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a year in jail, with all the time suspended.
Police traffic-collision investigators spent Wednesday night on the water taking photos and trying to determine what led to the collision, Fowler said.
“They do a reconstruction, not dissimilar to a collision on a roadway,” Fowler said, adding that being on the water “has greater challenges because you can’t stand there using surveying equipment.”
Fowler added that the sailboat had been traveling slowly. While Fowler initially said that it appeared the sailboat had been broadsided, he said Thursday that it might have been struck head-on.
Fowler said he did not know the make or model of either vessel.
The suspect is scheduled for a hearing at the King County Jail on Friday afternoon, when a judge will determine whether there is probable cause to hold him in custody.
Seattle Times staff reporter Mike Carter and news researchers Gene Balk and Miyoko Wolf contributed to this story, which includes information from Times archives. Jennifer Sullivan: 206-464-8294 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @SeattleSullivan.