South Tahoe celebrates life of fallen Contra Costa deputy with memorial paddle | SierraSun.com

South Tahoe celebrates life of fallen Contra Costa deputy with memorial paddle

Anthony Gentile
agentile@tahoedailytribune.com
Community members hold hands in a floating circle during a memorial paddle-out event for Carlos Francies on Wednesday night, Aug. 19, off El Dorado Beach. Francies drowned in Lake Tahoe six days earlier while trying to save a friend.
Anthony Gentile | Tahoe Daily Tribune

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — Carlos Francies drowned in a tragic accident in Lake Tahoe on Aug. 13, and less than a week later the local community returned to the waters to honor his memory. Approximately 100 people attended a memorial paddle-out event for the Contra Costa County sheriff’s deputy hosted by South Tahoe Standup Paddle on Wednesday night, Aug. 19.

Overcast skies served as the backdrop as locals paid tribute to Francies on the shore and in the water, including local police officers and firemen. The 30-year-old man drowned in Lake Tahoe while attempting to save a family friend who fell out of a kayak. A tribute with pictures of Francies, flowers and shell necklaces sat on a paddleboard Wednesday near where he was pulled ashore.

“He was trying to help his friend that he thought was in distress, and then 20 feet from his board he started to sink,” South Tahoe SUP owner Chris Brackett said. “When you see something like that, it hits home so hard.”

Seventy-six mourners participated in the paddle out in the lake, sitting atop their boards and holding hands in a floating circle in a tradition common to surf culture. After Sierra Community Church pastor Noah Largent led a prayer and spoke of Francies’ dedication to others and celebrating life, paddlers threw flowers into the air.

“Moments like this — stopping from our regular routine — give us an opportunity to reflect on what’s really important in life,” Largent said. “And that is our commitment to our family and our friends, and our loving service to one another.”

As the flowers drifted through the air and floated gently on the water inside the circle, a moment of silence ensued. Then, in line with the paddle-out tradition, minutes of splashing and hollering brought the ceremony to an end. Paddlers came ashore straight toward the tribute placed on the beach and joined in a few more moments of silence once on the sand.

“It is with heavy hearts that we honor the life of deputy Francies as we mourn with his family, his friends and his colleagues,” South Tahoe SUP CFO Robin Bender said.

The memorial paddle for Francies replaced South Tahoe SUP’s originally scheduled SUP Series race. Brackett considered a tribute to Francies prior to the race, but eventually decided to dedicate the entire evening to the Rancho Cordova, Calif., native and former Sacramento State defensive back — he was given the Most Awesome award handed out during series’ races.

“I couldn’t wrap my head around doing a race and doing that — it didn’t make any sense,” Brackett said. “We decided we’re not doing a race; we’re doing a paddle out.”

Francies’ funeral was held Thursday, Aug. 20, in Sacramento, Calif. A memorial vigil in Francies’ hometown took place two days earlier at Cordova High, his alma mater.