Drowning victim was wearing stilt-skates
January 29, 2007
“Stilt-skates” may have contributed to the death of a 50-year-old Sacramento man who drowned after falling through the ice at Donner Lake Friday.
George Sommerdorf Jr. was wearing two-foot-tall stilts with ice skates that were fastened with screws, said Truckee Police Sgt. Tim Hargrove. Sommerdorf was about 100 yards from Donner’s north shore when he fell on the ice.
“His family confirmed he had been stilt-skating before,” Hargrove said. “He was an avid skater.”
Hargrove said Sommerdorf had long pants on that covered the stilts, so from a distance he looked tall. Investigators discovered the screw fasteners on one of Sommerdorf’s ice skates had come loose and might have caused his fall through the ice, Hargrove said.
Sommerdorf drove to Donner Lake to skate by himself on Friday. Investigators found his vehicle near the lake’s shoreline that afternoon with a pair of long pants located nearby, Hargrove said.
Divers from the Truckee Fire and Police Joint Dive Team were unable to find Sommerdorf when they first searched the lake on Friday. Sommerdorf’s family was present when divers recovered his body Saturday afternoon at a depth of about 190 feet in 32 degree water, Hargrove said.
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An autopsy will be performed to determine Sommerdorf’s cause of death, said Nevada County Sheriff’s Sgt. Frank Koehler.
Witnesses said Sommerdorf was skating with another person on the lake before the accident occurred. The other skater subsequently contacted the police department. He did not know Sommerdorf and the two happened to be skating near each other, Hargrove said Donner Lake is not safe for recreating with thin ice across much of the lake.
“By all means, stay off the ice,” Hargrove said.