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Dangerous lake keeps emergency workers busy

Tourists flock to Lake Tahoe’s inviting shores every summer, but that clear water is treacherous.

Drownings, capsized boats and accidents are reported every year on the lake, keeping emergency personnel in all agencies on their toes.

A 31-year old Pennsylvania man died on June 21 when he dove into Lake Tahoe, about one-third of a mile west of Zephyr Point, to take a group picture with some friends and couldn’t swim back to the boat.



Friends threw him a lifesaver, but it came up short. A coroner speculated that he may have died of a heart attack or brain aneurysm.

On Fourth of July weekend, a man from Houston died near Kings Beach when he fell off a personal watercraft.



Officers reported that this year’s lake conditions have caused some of the problems.

“The lake level is low so people were hitting rocks. It was especially a problem after the fireworks,” Petty Officer Nathan Blackwell told the Tahoe Daily Tribune in July.

Even shallow water can present a threat.

A mason worker drowned in 6 feet of water at Logan Shoals in early May. Fellow workers attempted to jump into the 45-degree water to save their friend, a 30-year-old from Carson City who couldn’t swim, said Pete Van Arnum, El Dorado County sheriff’s deputy coroner.

The man and a friend took nearby kayaks for a spin after working on a house near Glenbrook.

“The water was very cold,” Van Arnum said. “A couple people tried to pull him out and they were almost getting hypothermia trying to rescue him.”

After the drowning death of a sheriff’s deputy, Douglas County enacted a policy requiring patrol boat officers to wear life jackets from the moment they leave dry land.

Deputy Ed Callahan, who died May 24, 1998, was not wearing a life jacket when the dinghy he was in capsized in Zephyr Cove.

According to the U.S. Coast Guard, Lake Tahoe averages two drownings a year. Hypothermia is the biggest killer, as Tahoe’s waters — averaging 57 to 60 degrees — are colder than most lakes and 40 degrees colder than the human body. It’s the largest alpine lake fed by snow melt.


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