Contra Costa deputy drowns at Lake Tahoe
August 14, 2015
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — An off-duty Contra Costa County deputy drowned at Lake Tahoe on Thursday afternoon while attempting to help a friend he thought was drowning.
Deputy Carlos Francies, 30, was visiting South Lake Tahoe with family and friends, spending the afternoon on El Dorado Beach near the intersection of Highway 50 and Lakeview Avenue, according to the South Lake Tahoe Police Department.
"Francies acted heroically in laying down his own life in his attempt to save another here in our city," said public information officer Tracy Franklin. "We are deeply saddened at the loss of this brave public servant, and extend our deepest condolences to his family, to his agency and to his community."
South Lake Tahoe rescuers and police were dispatched at 2:48 p.m. on a report of someone having drowned and who was being brought back into shore. Medics arrived and began CPR on an adult male subject who was not breathing. The subject was transported to Barton Memorial Hospital where he was later pronounced deceased.
According to authorities, Francies and his girlfriend, his sister and another male friend had rented paddles and kayaks near the beach.
Francies and his girlfriend were on the paddle boards, while his sister and the other man were on kayaks. The type of kayaks they were using permit a rider to stand on them as well as to sit. All four were in the lake, more than a 100 yards off shore, at a water depth of approximately 15 feet. Francies' sister was the only one of the four wearing a life jacket. The winds were strong on the lake Thursday. A high wind warning for Lake Tahoe had been issued, with forecasts of winds gusting to 40 mph.
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Francies and his girlfriend were close together on their paddle boards, while his sister and the other man were about 50 yards distant from them.
Francies saw his sister fall off of her kayak from a standing position. Their friend near to her jumped off his own kayak to assist her. While doing so, their friend kept hold of his paddle, as his own kayak drifted some distance away. After helping Francie's sister back aboard her kayak, the man began swimming to retrieve his own kayak. Because he swam while still holding his paddle, it appeared to Francies from a distance that his friend was in distress.
Francies responded immediately in an effort to help his friend, who he believed may be near to drowning. He jumped into the water and began swimming the distance toward his friend. Almost immediately however, only about 20 feet or so from his paddle board, Francies began to falter and fall into distress himself.
He was struggling to stay on the surface and called to his girlfriend, a registered nurse, to toss him the life jacket from her paddle board. She tried to do so, but was forced to throw against the strong wind.
The life jacket fell far short of Francies. She then jumped into the water to retrieve the life jacket and bring it toward Francies. While doing so, she could see him begin to sink. She was able to get to him with the life vest before he sank completely, but it appeared he had gone unconscious. Another unidentified citizen arrived to help and they were able to bring Francies into shallow enough water that they could stand. At this point other people witnessing the event brought a paddle board to them and helped to put Francies, now fully unconscious, onto the board. His girlfriend began CPR with Francies still on paddle board while making their way to the shore. Medics arrived and assisted at the shore.
During the event, Francies' friend had made it safely back to his kayak.
Francies' sister had fallen once again into the lake while the rescue attempts were being concentrated on Francie.
She was able to get onto her kayak but was struggling to get back to shore against the strong wind. Someone on a motorized personal water craft was able to assist her safely back to shore.