Swim safe, swim smart | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Swim safe, swim smart

Gregory Crofton

Five people drowned at South Shore last year. Nearly all of the deaths involved Lake Tahoe’s cold water lowering body temperatures and its high altitude leaving lungs gasping for breath.

The brutal combination, called hypothermia, locks up muscles, clouds the thought process and sends swimmers on a quick trip to the bottom of the lake.

Swimming in Tahoe is not like swimming anywhere else. It is colder – never warmer than about 68 degrees – and people have to work harder to breathe because the lake is 6,225 feet above sea level.

At that altitude, there is less pressure from the atmosphere to force oxygen into the lungs, making swimmers work harder to get an adequate amount into their lungs.

The drownings:

— In May, a 30-year-old Carson City man got dumped from a kayak near Glenbrook. Friends tried to rescue him, but the man didn’t know how to swim and the water was 45 degrees.

— In June, a 31-year-old man from Pennsylvania dove from a boat off Nevada Beach intending to take a group picture of his friends on the boat. A life preserver failed to reach the man. When he was finally pulled aboard, attempts to resuscitate him failed.

— In August, a 53-year-old man and his 50-year-old wife drowned after a motorboat they rented flipped in choppy water near Cave Rock. The woman was never found. The man was found dead with a life preserver hanging on his right arm.

— In August, a 24-year-old man from Vallejo drowned after he got tired swimming from the back of a rented ski boat to a tube attached to the boat. The man asked his girlfriend to bring the boat to him, but by the time she did, he couldn’t hold on to anything and his 230-pound body sank

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