Drowning victim was wearing 2-foot 'stilt-skates'

Stilt-skates may have contributed to the death of a 50-year-old Sacramento man who drowned after falling through the ice at Donner Lake Friday.

George Sommerdorf Jr. was wearing 2-foot-tall stilts with ice skates fastened by screws, said Truckee Police Sgt. Tim Hargrove.

Sommerdorf was about 100 yards from Donner's north shore when he fell through the ice.

"His family confirmed he had been stilt-skating before," Hargrove said. "He was an avid skater."

Hargrove said Sommerdorf had on long pants that covered the stilts, so from a distance he looked tall.

Investigators discovered the screw fasteners on one of Sommerdorf's ice skates had come loose, and that might have caused his fall through the surface ice.

Sommerdorf drove to Donner Lake to skate by himself on Friday. Investigators found his vehicle near the lake's shoreline that afternoon, Hargrove said. Divers from the Truckee Fire and Police Joint Dive Team were unable to find Sommerdorf when they first searched the lake on Friday.

Sommerdorf's family was present when divers recovered his body Saturday at a depth of about 190 feet.

An autopsy will be performed to determine Sommerdorf's cause of death, said Nevada County Sheriff's Sgt. Frank Koehler.

Witnesses said Sommerdorf was skating with another person on the lake before the accident occurred. The other skater subsequently contacted the police department. He did not know Sommerdorf and the two happened to be skating near each other, Hargrove said

Donner Lake is not safe for recreating with thin ice across much of the lake, Hargrove said.

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