Drowning victim died of fatigue | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Drowning victim died of fatigue

The man from Sebastopol, Calif., who drowned while swimming across Upper Angora Lake Thursday, died from exhaustion.

“He was in extremely good shape,” said Tom Hill, acting coroner for El Dorado County. “He had no obvious medical conditions and he was not a drinker and didn’t take drugs.”

Stephen Whittle, a 47-year-old owner of an art studio, left a wife and two children on the beach to go for a 400-yard swim across the lake. He was about 15 feet from the shore ringed by high cliffs when he began yelling for help. Witnesses at the scene said Whittle came up twice gulping for air and yelling before he went down a third and final time.

El Dorado County Sheriff’s Sgt. Randy Peshon found him more than an hour after he went under water. Peshon was one of three divers who searched the cold murky waters of the lake. He found Whittle 25 feet down on top of a downed tree.

Peshon said the kind of struggle Whittle reportedly put up indicates he was exhausted.

“Swimming a long way, not being used to the altitude and with that kind of struggle at the surface, you can start swallowing water and things go down hill from there,” he said. “Swimming in open water is more difficult because you’re exerting a lot more energy. People tend to work harder in lakes because they’re much deeper than pools.”

Upper Angora Lake sits at 7,200 feet above sea level and was 60 to 65 degrees at the surface when Whittle drowned. Divers said the water was 42 degrees at the depth the body was found.

Since the water was so cold, paramedics stationed on a boat began CPR immediately in hopes that the cold water preserved his life. Whittle was air lifted to Barton Memorial Hospital where doctors warmed his body, but failed to revive him.

Whittle and his family were on vacation in Lake Tahoe Basin staying at North Shore’s Carnelian Bay.

“On the west shore drownings are usually alcohol-related,” Peshon said. “Here they are usually because of the cold water.”

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