Teen drowns at Donner Lake | SierraSun.com

Teen drowns at Donner Lake

David Bunker

Authorities were searching the depths of Donner Lake on Tuesday for the body of a 15-year-old Sacramento boy who is presumed drowned.The teen, Mohit Melvin Prasad, jumped off of a pontoon boat at about 1:30 p.m. on Saturday to recover his hat, which had fallen into the lake, said Truckee police Lt. Dan Johnston. Prasad was with seven members of his family, who had rented the boat for the day.He got into trouble as he began swimming back to the boat, said Johnston. His 23-year-old cousin attempted a rescue but was unsuccessful.Police believe the boy’s body now rests nearly 180 feet deep in the lake. Divers are not able to drop that far below the surface without specialized equipment, Johnston said. “It’s too deep,” he said. “It’s pitch black down there.”One El Dorado County diver, who rose too quickly from more than 60 feet down in the lake, began bleeding from his face because of the quick decompression, he said. He was taken to the hospital and is recovering, according to police. By Sunday, officials worked long into the night, beginning a methodical canvassing of the lake floor.”We started the painstaking grid search with cameras that can operate at that depth,” Johnston said.Progress has been slowed by the limited range of the remote-controlled underwater camera donated by a University of Nevada, Reno professor, and the large search area.”The cameras have a foot or two window, and we are searching acres,” Johnston said. “It’s like trying to find a needle in a haystack.”In the absence of divers, searchers are relying heavily on a Yuba County boat, with sophisticated sonar equipment, that was slowly scanning the bottom of the lake on Tuesday. Yuba County Sgt. Bill Siler is operating the side-scanning sonar, which he describes as a “high-dollar depth finder.” The $45,000 system is operated at a speed of about one mile per hour. The large, torpedo-shaped sonar unit sends back readings from about 22 meters on both sides of the equipment’s length.”You drag it along the bottom as close as you can get,” said Siler.The wind and waves on the lake make operating the sonar boat challenging, especially since Siler has never searched an area deeper than 40 feet down. While keeping an eye on the multiple Global Positioning Systems and sonar readings, the sheriffs from Yuba County must also keep the boat at a one-line-an-hour crawl.”It’s like trying to fly three helicopters at the same time,” Siler said.The sonar has picked up several objects that may be Prasad’s body, and are planning on sending the camera in for a closer look.Police believe that the body will not come to the surface on its own because of the cold temperatures and pressure of the water at that depth.Authorities may call off the search on Wednesday if law enforcement does not locate the body on Tuesday, according to Truckee Police.”There comes a point when you have to say ‘we can’t find him,'” said Johnston.He said the police department will make that call after they investigate two more objects that may be Prasad’s body.Prasad’s family has returned home to Sacramento and is “completely satisfied with the efforts” to recover their son’s body, Johnston said. Police boats are on the lake alerting boaters to avoid the search area and slow down as they pass the sonar boat, but the lake is still open to recreation.Initial search efforts on Saturday included California Highway Patrol and Careflight helicopters and Truckee Fire Department boats and divers. Five counties have also assisted in the search: Placer, Nevada, Sierra, El Dorado and Yuba. RECENT DEATHS ON LOCAL WATERSnJune 26: Justin Garrick, 17 of Reno, falls off a boat at Boca Reservoir. A weeks-long search ensued for Garrick’s body, which was recovered on July 18.nJuly 4: Amy Chamberlain, 32 of San Francisco, drowns in the swift, cold current of the north fork of the American River near Soda Springs.nJuly 16: Mohit Melvin Prasad, 15 of Sacramento, jumps off a pontoon boat at Donner Lake to retrieve his hat from the water. The search continues for Prasad’s body.