Early Tuesday morning, a 56-year-old California man lost control of his car, which tumbled 400 feet to the rocks below State Route 28, about a mile south of Sand Harbor State Park.
The driver, Guy Fortin, of Elk Grove, waited for possibly several hours before a Lake Tahoe fisherman spotted a Chrysler Sebring convertible with its front hood partially submerged in the lake.
"All he could remember was that it was dark when he crashed, so it could have been any time before 6 a.m. It's anybody's guess until we can get more information from him," said Nevada Highway Patrol Trooper Eric Gallagher.
He said Fortin was conscious when rescue personnel reached him; he characterized the man as "pretty critical."
"He hit a couple of boulders on his way down," Gallagher said, confirming that Fortin was alone in the vehicle.
Steve Crouch, a fisherman from Galt, Calif., was fishing along the East Shore in a boat about 8 a.m. when he saw what looked like something moving from the shore. He was almost 100 yards from the shore, so he drove his boat closer to the scene.
Crouch found a tan Chrysler Sebring with Fortin stuck inside and bleeding from the head.
"I saw his arm waving at me and when I realized it was a person, I immediately called 911 and started looking for another person who could have flown out of the car, since I saw clothes and belongings scattered about," Crouch said.
The injured man was shaking badly, so Crouch got a blanket from Fortin's trunk to keep the man warm.
"He was really dehydrated, so I gave him some of my water. He was really thankful," Crouch said.
The NHP said Fortin apparently passed over the center line of Highway 28 heading northbound about one mile past Sand Harbor, tumbled down the cliff and ended up at the edge of the lake, with the front of his Sebring in the water.
Nevada Highway Patrol received the call from Crouch at 9 a.m., Gallagher said. He estimated Fortin had been in the water for several hours before Crouch called and rescuers arrived. Gallagher confirmed that the victim was conscious the entire time.
North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District's rescue boat, Marine 16, transported Fortin to Sand Harbor where he was airlifted by helicopter to Renown Regional Medical Center in Reno. The Coast Guard and Washoe Country Sheriff's Marine 9 also responded to the rescue.
Chris Magenheimer, the commander in charge of Marine 16, said Fortin was conscious, but not totally lucid.
"He wasn't too alert and oriented. He was cold, and you don't talk too much when you're really cold. He just kept saying that he went off (the cliff) when it was dark," Magenheimer said. "He didn't have any life-threatening injuries."
Gallagher expected Fortin's car would be towed out of the water Tuesday afternoon.