Boat capsizes near Cave Rock; one dead, one missing
A 53-year-old San Carlos man is dead and his wife missing after a boat carrying nine people, including several teenagers, capsized in choppy and frigid waters a mile off the Lake Tahoe shore near Cave Rock on Wednesday.
The boat is suspected of sinking around 4:30 p.m., but a 911 call didn’t reach Tahoe-Douglas Fire Protection District until two hours later.
Some of the survivors were believed to have been wearing personal flotation devices, officials said.
The missing woman, 50, was said to be wearing an orange PFD a U.S. Coast Guard official confirmed.
Information on the survivors, including where they live, could not be obtained at press time. At least two of the teen survivors are believed to be the children of the dead man and missing woman, authorities said.
A U. S. Coast Guard boat brought the dead man to shore. Paramedics were seen trying to revive his heart. He was transported by helicopter to Barton Memorial Hospital under full cardiac arrest then died, said Sgt. Tom Mezzetta of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office.
A man and teenage girl were retrieved later and shivered under blankets while being led to an ambulance.
At the Cave Rock shore, about 50 personnel from Tahoe-Douglas Fire Protection District, search-and-rescue crews, the Coast Guard and passers-by aided in the rescue.
Two helicopters and an airplane also helped search.
Witnesses who helped rescue victims said ice chests and seats were among the scattered debris around the overturned boat. A Coast Guard spokesman confirmed it was a Correctcraft speed boat that sits low in the water.
The cause of the accident is under investigation. Wind speeds clocked in Tahoe Basin were 15 to 20 mph with some gusts, according to the National Weather Service.
The search for the one victim continued through Wednesday night, but additional units were ordered on hold at about 8:45 p.m. because of darkness.
The probability of survival in the water overnight “is not good,” said Coast Guard spokesman Mark Haven.
The survivors, some of whom appeared unconscious, were taken by helicopter and ambulance to Barton Memorial Hospital. At least one survivor swam to shore, Mezzetta said.
Rick Shaneck of Modesto, who rescued a woman from the water and helped pull three children from the top of the overturned boat to safety, said he was on his way back into shore when authorities stopped him and asked for help.
Shaneck turned his boat around and headed to the middle of the lake.
“I think what happened is that they were going too fast, caught a wake, and it flipped them right over,” said Shaneck.
He jumped into the water and grabbed a freezing woman. His wife, Lisa, pulled a male teenager named Michael into their boat.
“He just looked at us and said ‘Help me,’ Lisa Shaneck said. “I think he panicked and went in (the water.)”
Lisa Shaneck said the woman, a mother of some of the teens, prayed but hardly spoke on the way back to shore.
“The mom just kept telling me there were three more,” she said. “Three or four. She couldn’t remember.”
The couple described the conditions on the lake at the time as brisk and windy and the water choppy. Before they were stopped by authorities, Shaneck told his wife that if someone doesn’t know what they’re doing on the water, they might capsize because of the high wakes.
The capsized boat was first spotted by 7-year-old Robert Nathanson. The boy was on top of Cave Rock with his mother, Alissa, when they heard screams for help and a whistle.
“I turned around to tell my mother that I saw the boat — then when I looked back it wasn’t there,” Robert said.
Alissa Nathanson used her cell phone to call authorities.
Tahoe-Douglas Fire Chief Bruce Van Cleemput stood on shore rocks listening as Capt. Ben Sharit directed the search process nearby.
Van Cleemput said he couldn’t remember Lake Tahoe creating such a deadly scene.
“I remember five people at one time, but not nine, at least in our response area,” he said.