Did county emergency responders fail Lake Nacimiento drowning victim?
July 19, 2016
OPINION by KIM ENGLISH
As one of the first responders to the scene on July 10 at Sandy Cove, I would have to disagree with the way the article portrays the rescue efforts for this young man. What I saw was a very slow and unprepared response team.
The intention of this letter is to request a review of the search and rescue procedures for Lake Nacimiento and to have a new protocol put in place to prevent any other needless drownings.
This is my account of the slow and under prepared, under equipped rescue efforts:
As I was hiking back down to the cove, I heard screaming and obvious urgent distress. When I arrived, there was a woman crying and screaming on the other side with her son next to her. There were several bystanders on the banks watching and two girls on the beach side that were screaming and crying. One of whom was the daughter of the man who drowned. The other, the daughter of the crying woman across the cove.
A couple of campers were in the water diving and looking for the man who had gone under. One of my friends was on the rocks up high trying to sight the body. I jumped in the water to help with the search. Then another friend arrived and started diving as well.
Five minutes later a ranger arrived on land fully dressed and without any diving gear. He jumped in and started searching too but without gear, there was no chance to find somebody in the deep, muddy water. Diving equipment was necessary.
Another five minutes passed as we all tried desperately knowing someone’s life was at stake. Then the ranger boat arrived with two rangers on board and there was hope that a rescue was about to occur. There was still time to save this mans life.
Instead, what transpired is still haunting me. When the rangers arrived in the cove, there didn’t seem to be any urgency. One ranger took his shirt off as if he was going in but when he was told it had been 10 minutes or so, he never entered the water. It was like resignation.
Neither of the two rangers ever got out of the boat. Still no “dive team” or search and rescue efforts. I don’t understand how a ranger boat on a lake doesn’t have any equipment to aid in potential drownings? This is what needs to change.
Meanwhile, the four or five of us kept diving. The ranger in the water performed a “line” search performing all he could without the proper gear. Oxygen tanks, masks, lights, fins, and sonar equipment would have potentially saved this mans life.
It took another 30 to 45 minutes before a helicopter arrived and the sheriffs arrived on land. No diver was lowered into the water from the helicopter and no divers entered the water from land.
These rescue efforts were slow, inadequate, and ill equipped at best. The article portrays the “efforts” very differently. Unfortunately, that won’t call any needed attention to the changes that need to occur! It leads people to believe that all efforts were made, status quo will continue, and so will, no doubt, lead to more drownings.
The divers arrived after about an hour and a half later only to recover the dead body from the bottom of the lake. It only took them a few minutes to find the body because he was at the bottom right where he went down. If dive equipment had been present at the rangers arrival, the man would most likely be alive today.
I urge those responsible and in a position to change the protocol to do so immediately before another fatality occurs.
For now, I will not return to lake Nacimiento because I realize that if an accident occurs, and they do and will, that there is no chance of a successful rescue with the procedure the way it is now.
Thank you in advance for your thoughtful consideration and attention to this matter. Change needs to occur. I hope this letter will help facilitate change.
Kim English is a Carmel resident who has vacationed at Lake Nacimiento since she was a child and was camping with a group of friends when the drowning occurred.