A Ski Run Marina employee pulled seven people out of Lake Tahoe on Saturday, including one trapped under an overturned rental boat, after the vessel took in water and rolled over about a mile off shore.
Nine people were onboard at the time of the incident, which occurred around 2 p.m., according to witnesses. Some had reportedly been sitting at the bow of the boat, weighing it down, as waves kicked up by strong winds spilled over the front.
The incoming water caused the boat to sink slightly before flipping over, according to reports. However, the watercraft managed to stay afloat while it was upside down.
From land, marina manager Matt Williamson heard shouts of “man overboard” coming from the Tahoe Queen, which was near the overturned vessel at the time. He jumped in a boat and headed out to the distressed customers, pulling six out of the water in a matter of minutes, he said.
With two other overboard boaters on the Queen, Williamson said he was trying to get a headcount when one of the rescued marina customers mentioned her sister was still missing.
“She was either going to be 100 feet under water or stuck under the boat,” he recalled before jumping in the lake.
Williamson swam under the boat, where he found a woman he guessed was in her 20s.
“When I grabbed her leg I thought she was dead,” he said, noting how she wasn’t moving at first.
However, Williamson soon discovered the woman was conscious and breathing out of a small air pocket trapped underneath the vessel. He later estimated the boat had been overturned for about 10 minutes before he found the woman.
“The first words out of my mouth were I’m glad you’re still alive,” he said.
The woman, who was reportedly too scared to swim out from under the boat on her own, asked Williamson to hold her hand while he lead them to the surface, he said.
No one was injured in the incident.
South Lake Tahoe police responded to the scene by boat, but the distressed party had already been picked up when they arrived.
Boating officer Cameron Carmichael said none of the people involved were wearing life jackets initially, but began putting them on as the boat started sinking.
The overturned boat was pulled to shallower waters following the incident. It was taken out of the lake that night before undergoing repairs, said Ted Moorhead, operations and marketing manager for Ski Run Marina.
As for rescuing people from the lake, Williamson said he really didn’t think about it at the time. He just wanted to make sure the group was OK.
“Hopefully somebody would do the same for me,” he said.