Man falls through ice, presumed dead at Donner Lake

Sierra Countis
Sierra Sun
Emma Garrard/ Sierra Sun

A man is presumed dead after falling through the ice on Donner Lake Friday morning.

At 9:24 a.m. a man between the ages of 25 and 40 years old was ice skating about 100 yards from the northern shore of Donner Lake when eyewitnesses saw him fall through the ice and disappear underwater, said Truckee Police Lt. Harwood Mitchell. The depth of the water in that vicinity is about 240 feet, he said.

“He was screaming ‘Help, help!’,” said one eyewitness, Lisa Cortopassi, who was driving along Donner Pass Road when she saw the man fall into the lake.

Cortopassi said she immediately called 9-1-1 on her cell phone and ran to the nearest house to contact emergency personnel.

The man “flailed quickly,” and “stayed above water about a minute,” Cortopassi said.

A joint dive team consisting of personnel from Truckee Fire Protection District and Truckee Police Department attempted multiple ice rescues, but due to freezing water temperatures, divers reclassified their response to a recovery effort at about 10:45 a.m. The body had not been recovered or identified as of 5:05 p.m. Friday, when the recovery effort was halted for the evening. The recovery effort will continue Saturday morning, Mitchell said.

The Placer County Sheriff’s dive team also responded to the scene to aid in the recovery of the man’s body.

Mitchell said responders think two people were on the lake when the man fell through the ice. Investigators are working to locate the other individual, who might have known the victim, Mitchell said.

Truckee Police and Truckee Fire personnel are strongly urging all others to remain off the ice because of thin-ice conditions, he said. The ice is dangerously unsafe, according to Mitchell.

Anyone who may have known an adult male who was planning to skate on Donner Lake Friday morning, and who has not been able to contact that person, is asked to call Truckee Police at 550-2320.

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