DCSO loses a deputy
The members of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office have reacted to the drowning death of Deputy Edward Callahan with shock and sadness.
“This is a really tragic event. Emotions are running pretty high with our staff,” said Sheriff Ron Pierini. “Ed was a very positive individual, a very sincere person. He was a real team player. He did an excellent job.”
Callahan, 54, died Sunday evening when a dinghy he and two other men were in capsized near Zephyr Cove Marina in Lake Tahoe, about 200 feet from shore in water about 15 feet deep.
“We’ve never lost an officer before,” Pierini said. “Probably the last time was in the 1800s. In modern police time, we’ve never lost an officer.”
Callahan and Reserve Deputy Wes Rice, who patrol the Douglas County portion of the Lake for the sheriff’s office, had tied the DCSO boat to a buoy, and a marina boat was in the process of picking them up.
A marina employee came over to their boat in a dinghy, and when Rice and Callahan got into the boat, it capsized. Pierini said the sheriff’s office believes a wave caused the boat to turn over.
All three men were thrown into the water, and Rice and the other man were able to swim to the safety of the DCSO boat.
The air temperature at the time was about 50 degrees, with winds more than 20 mph. The water temperature was estimated to be in the 40s.
“Hypothermia is a very serious problem,” Pierini said. “From what I understand, the muscles contract, breathing becomes almost impossible and you just lose the ability to function. It just overwhelms you. At the time this happened, they could only last a couple of minutes.”
Following standard procedure, the two men tied the boat up to the buoy to keep it in the water rather than bringing it to shore. Having it on the Lake instead of out of the water, Pierini said, is essential for being able to respond quickly to emergencies.
Rice and the Zephyr Cove employee were treated and released for hypothermia, as well as another deputy, Brian Johnson, who responded to the scene. Johnson was on patrol when called to the scene. A boat took him and his partner out to the site of the accident. Johnson stripped off his gear and jumped in but was unable to save Callahan.
Callahan and Rice had removed their life jackets on the DCSO boat, but the dinghy contained life preservers. However, the boat capsized before they had an opportunity to put them on.
“You can second guess and say, ‘sure it would have been better if they had (life preservers) on, but Ed Callahan had 30 years of experience. He knew what he was doing,” Pierini said. “You’re talking about people with a vast amount of experience. Between Ed and Wes, they probably have 2,000 runs. They never had any incidents like this before, but it only takes one.”
Callahan was a retired United States Customs Agent and had been a member of the Marine Corps. He and Rice patrolled the Lake in the summer time, and the day of the accident was the second day the boat was in use this year. This was Callahan’s third year patrolling the Lake for the sheriff’s office.
People die on the Lake each year, Pierini said, and having the boat patrol is important. Cold waters, high winds and the number of tourists unfamiliar with the environment are some of the reasons the Lake can be dangerous.
“It’s a very beautiful lake, but it can be a very treacherous lake at the same time,” Pierini said.
Pierini said Callahan and Rice were well known at the Lake, and the sheriff’s office often received compliments about their work.
His partner’s death has been difficult for Rice, Pierini said.
“They were more than just partners. They were also very good friends, very close friends,” Pierini said. “He’s doing better than most (would), but I think it will be a difficult process for him.”
Callahan leaves a wife and three children. He and his wife were in the process of selling their home in California to move to the Zephyr Cove area, Pierini said. He had been traveling to the Lake for the summers, to work on the boat patrol.
The funeral will be held Friday in Hemet, Calif. On June 2, a memorial service will be held at the Zephyr Cove Marina at 10 a.m.
“I think that will help our people have some closure to this event,” Pierini said, “and Ed had a lot of friends in the Zephyr Cove area.”
Inquiries as to whether a memorial fund will be set up can be made at the sheriff’s office at 782-9900.
Pierini said numerous other law enforcement agencies have contacted DCSO to express sympathy and to offer any help possible.
“A lot of us are obviously upset. He was a good friend and a good employee,” Pierini said. “It’s a tragic accident. It could happen to anyone. Even the best can have accidents. He’s going to be missed by everyone.”
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