At the Lake: Coroner: Drowning is the cause of death in boating accident |

At the Lake: Coroner: Drowning is the cause of death in boating accident

Provided by the Tahoe Daily Tribune

Drowning caused the death of 54-year-old Rick Hixenbaugh, who fell into Lake Tahoe from a sailboat Sunday evening, the El Dorado County sheriff’s coroner said.

Asphyxiation, basically suffocation, was the technical cause given to Hixenbaugh’s death. The man was on a 1971 Bahama sailboat preparing to head into the Tahoe Keys Marina when a wave struck the boat and tossed Hixenbaugh in the 42-degree water.

Coroner Larry Olsen said there were no signs of a heart attack or physical trauma ” such as Hixenbaugh’s head hitting the boat ” which some family and friends wondered since Hixenbaugh didn’t swim to a nearby life jacket thrown to him.

A toxicology report, which will determine what, if anything, Hixenbaugh had in his system, will be completed in roughly two months.

Olsen said when the body is in fear of drowning it shuts off passageways so a person can’t inhale water. Typically a drowning victim has a small amount of water in their lungs, Olsen said.

The autopsy was completed Monday after Hixenbaugh’s body was found a couple hundred yards from the Tahoe Keys channel in 20 feet of water.

In a quick 33 minutes, the South Tahoe Redevelopment Agency gave a unanimous OK Tuesday for a land-use change the developer of the convention center project needs to proceed with the $410 million concept now under way near Stateline.

The special meeting was swift and less controversial than the last meeting in which the panel operating as the City Council spent hours debating the virtues of the altered project ” the city’s largest ever.

The concept now calls for fewer units in the hotel condominium complex that includes a convention center, greenbelt and retail space. It also involves an overpass on Highway 50 linking the northwest development to the Marriott-anchored Heavenly Village.

With no public comment beyond developer representatives, the only significant question came from agency board member and redevelopment critic Bill Crawford, who wanted to know if the city would be compensated for approving the transfer of tourist accommodation units from the city to developers Randy Lane and John Serpa who represent Lake Tahoe Development Co.

“I see that as a gift or subsidy,” Crawford said. He calculated the 100 tourist accommodation units in question, deemed land-use credits, would amount to about $2 million.

But city Finance Director Christine Vuletich indicated the allowances were spelled out in the city’s owner participation agreement with the developer.

Lake Tahoe Development attorney Lew Feldman pointed out how the developer bought property with 577 hotel units on the land with Tahoe Regional Planning Agency regulations that allow for only 477. The issue comes before the Lake Tahoe Basin regulatory agency Wednesday.

“This essentially levels the playing field,” Feldman said.

The proposed change also allowed for the use of real estate offices at 5 percent of the commercial floor area in the project area. The developer wants to sell condo units in a building once operating as retail space.

In the end, the city vote passed 5-0.

In an 11.5-acre area between Highway 50, Cedar, Friday and Stateline avenues where developers invested at least $64 million on property acquisitions, a major utility job has launched the project expected to be completed by 2010.