Authorities waged an exhaustive search for a 54-year-old South Lake Tahoe man believed to have drowned after falling off a sailboat off the Tahoe Keys shoreline Sunday evening.
The identity of the missing man had not been released as of press time.
A dive team was dispatched with boat marine units and a CALSTAR helicopter searching the area about a quarter mile off the shore of Beach Drive. An El Dorado County Sheriff's unit joined the South Lake Tahoe Fire and Police departments, along with the U.S. Coast Guard and Tahoe Douglas Fire Protection District. A Coast Guard officer said his crew had planned to resume the search today.
The Coast Guard uses a formula to gauge the survival rate based on the age and clothes of the victim as well as the water temperature. Officer James Crawford figured his survival rate at 21Ú2 to 3 hours.
"It doesn't look good, but we always try to stay as hopeful as possible," he said.
The unidentified man was apparently teaching the other three occupants how to sail when he fell into the 42-degree water at a depth of 12 to 24 feet. Two life vests were thrown in, South Lake Tahoe Fire reported. His daughter watched him go under water and jumped in to rescue him to no avail. When the sailboat came in to the Tahoe Keys Marina, friends greeted the tearful woman.
The difficulty of the search was heightened by 10- to 20-mph winds that kicked up that afternoon, making visibility low for the crews - including the helicopter that went out twice that evening.
"They'll search until dark," South Lake Tahoe Fire Department Batalion Chief Brad Piazzo said of the 6:52 p.m. call.
But hope was fading fast as the first hour passed.
"This is not a good sign," police Sgt. Cameron Carmichael said, watching the circling of units from the shore.
The incident comes less than a year after a tough summer season for Lake Tahoe water enthusiasts. Three drownings were reported in five days. The average is two per year.