Longtime Ocean Shores businessman and avid pilot Dan Murphy was killed this week in a fall from a ladder while working on a hangar at his new home in Sequim.
The 63-year-old Murphy had just completed moving his final belongings from a hangar at the Ocean Shores Airport and was at the Sequim hangar last Saturday afternoon when he apparently fell and hit his head on concrete.
Last year, Dan and Joyce Murphy, Ocean Shores business owners since 1996, sold their Lighthouse restaurant at 850 Pt. Brown Ave. NE and then sold their home near the airport.
When they announced they were moving, the couple told the North Coast News that their motivations were a combination of the desire to retire from the time consuming demands of owning and operating a successful retail business, and their love of flying the two small private planes they kept at the Ocean Shores Airport.
Their plans were to build a new home in an airpark setting, where private homes and aircraft hangars are located adjacent to a small airport.
“They were building a hangar-home and he was on a six-foot ladder. He was caulking under the eves on some siding. He wasn’t very high, but when my mother found him, he was laying on the concrete. There was nobody around and no one saw it,” their son Kory Murphy said about his father’s accident.
Dan Murphy was pronounced dead on Sunday after he was flown to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.
The Sequim Gazette reported that Murphy died after what was the first flight from Diamond Point Airport’s new helipad. Fire Chief Ben Andrews with Clallam County Fire District 3 said a volunteer firefighter was on scene within four minutes after the call came in about the accident, and a medical team from the Blyn station was there within 10 minutes followed by a second medical unit from the Sequim station.
Last year, members of the Diamond Point Airport Association (DPAA) sought to improve their makeshift helipad, a 40-foot-by-40-foot mowed space along the airport’s runway, the Sequim newspaper reported. That led to the new helipad, which was first used to transport Murphy on Saturday.
Kaye Gagnon, a volunteer for the association, said nearby residents plan to help Murphy’s family in various ways as they deal with their loss.
Local business owner Dianne Hansen of The Dusty Trunk shop said word about Murphy’s accident started circulating around Ocean Shores on Monday, and she later talked to Joyce personally to hear about the circumstances.
Hansen recalled that “Dan always had a different perspective on things. When you wanted a new opinion, Dan would give it.”
Severe allergies caused Dan to give up farming and move his family from Nebraska to Westport in 1994. Two years later, they bought the candy store in the strip mall that is now west of the Ocean Shores Convention Center. Tiring of two years of commuting from Westport, they built a house on the bay just south of the airport in 1998.
After selling the candy and ice cream store in 2005 (it’s still called Murphy’s), they set about creating a building to house a small restaurant that would specialize in espresso and pastries.
“We tried to figure out something with a nautical theme,” Dan explained in an interview with Scott Johnston for the North Coast News. They hit on a lighthouse, and ended up making a full-scale replica of the “Mukilteo Light,” including its 38-foot-tall octagonal tower.
The Lighthouse opened in Ocean Shores on June 26, 2006, and was sold to the new owners in 2018. The Murphys also own a 1953 Piper Super Cub (“two years older than me,” Dan would say). In 2004, they built an experimental plane, and a big part of the move to the Sequim area was to enjoy more sunny days for flying.
“They had everything sold in Ocean Shores, and just the weekend before, they had just taken the last loads out of their hangar in Ocean Shores and just got everything moved into the building where they had storage,” Kory Murphy said. They had been staying in a motorhome while building a new home.