Contra Costa deputy drowns during Lake Tahoe rescue attempt
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — A Contra Costa Sheriff’s Office deputy died during a drowning rescue attempt Thursday afternoon at El Dorado Beach.
Deputy Carlos Francies died Thursday after responding to someone who was drowning in deep water, officials said.
South Lake Tahoe Fire Department medics and police officers responded to the scene call at around 2:48 p.m.
Medics arrived and began CPR on Francies. He was transported to Barton Memorial Hospital where he was later pronounced dead.
According to the South Lake Tahoe Police Department, Francies was visiting South Lake Tahoe with family and friends, spending the afternoon on El Dorado Beach near the intersection of US Highway 50 and Lakeview Avenue.
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 paddleboards, 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 hundred yards off shore, at a water depth of approximately 15 feet.
Francies’ sister was the only one of the four who had donned a life jacket, according to police.
A high wind warning for Lake Tahoe had been issued Thursday afternoon, with forecasts of winds gusting to 40 mph.
Francies and his girlfriend were close together on their paddleboards, while his sister and the other man were about 50 yards 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 Francies’ 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, only about 20 feet or so from his paddleboard, 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 paddleboard. She attempted 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. His girlfriend began CPR on Francies, still on a paddleboard, while making their way to the shore. Medics arrived and assist 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 Francies. 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.
“The South Lake Tahoe Police Department recognizes that Deputy Carlos Francies acted heroically in laying down his own life in his attempt to save another here in our city,” officials said. “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.”
Contra Costa Sheriff David O. Livingston also mourned Francies death in a prepared statement.
“Today we lost a dedicated Deputy Sheriff and a member of our family,” Livingston said in a prepared statement. “Deputy Carlos Francies died doing what he was sworn to do: putting himself in harms way to protect the lives of others. He is a hero and an example of exactly what is right in law enforcement today. We mourn with his family, friends and colleagues.”