TAHOE CITY, Calif. — Regional emergency crews on Tuesday rescued a man who had been floating for nearly two hours in Lake Tahoe after his friend dropped him off in the water to swim and eventually lost sight of him, an official said.
Two men in their early 20s rented a personal watercraft from a local business and took it out for a joyride Tuesday afternoon on the lake, heading from Tahoe City toward Emerald Bay, said Placer County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. John Giovannini.
One of the men allowed the other to swim in the lake while he continued to ride around; soon after, the man lost sight of his friend, who was wearing a life jacket. After searching for him, the man returned to shore at the Grove Street pier in Tahoe City at about 2:25 p.m., and he informed officials his friend had been in the water for about 45 minutes, Giovannini said.
A PCSO deputy near the area commandeered a personal boat to go out and search for the man. Because of this swift action, Giovannini said the man was found and pulled from the water at 3:31 p.m.
The man, though shaken, was unhurt in the incident.
By the time he was pulled from the water, Placer had launched its Marine 6 patrol boat and alerted a helicopter, Giovannini said. An El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office patrol boat also had launched, and vessels with U.S. Goast Guard, Washoe County Sheriff’s Office and South Lake Tahoe Police all were on standby.
“It was a full water search and rescue mission,” Giovannini said. “Whenever it’s a water rescue, we pretty much call the whole world to respond.”
Giovannini said the man was lucky to not be seriously hurt or killed.
“It wasn’t a smart decision,” he said. “He could have been hit by a boat, there’s hypothermia, there’s the danger of getting lost. These boats, if someone is in the water, they can’t see ... that’s what the orange flags are for.”
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, Lake Tahoe’s water temperature at the time of the incident was about 71 degrees off the coast at Tahoe Vista and 68 degrees at Tahoe City.