Search scaled back for Donner drowning victim
July 23, 2005
Truckee police have scaled back their search for the body of the 15-year-old Sacramento teen who drowned in Donner Lake July 16.
Authorities have used divers, helicopters, sonar equipment and underwater cameras to search for the body of Mohit Prasad. Prasad reportedly jumped off of a pontoon boat that his family had rented at the lake, attempting to recover his hat which had fallen in the water.
He was unable to swim back to the boat, and his 23-year-old cousin was unable to rescue him, according to police.
The search for the body, which authorities say is nearly 180 feet below the surface, now relies on an underwater camera donated by a professor from the University of Nevada, Reno.
A specialized sonar boat from Yuba County has returned home because of other search commitments.
The camera operators have investigated five objects that the sonar boat showed may have been the body of Prasad. Law enforcement found a plastic Christmas tree, several buckets filled with concrete and a sunken buoy, but no body, said Truckee police Lt. Dan Johnston.
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Police plan to use the camera several more times next week to look for the body.
But the camera, which has a range of view of only about two feet, is meant to work in conjunction with sonar, not on its own.
“Trying to search hundreds of acres with a two-foot field of view is possible, but it will take weeks,” Johnston said.
The search is further hampered by the fact that the camera boat can only operate in the stillness of night.
“The specific camera can only be operated at night because you cannot have any waves,” Johnston said.
Officials have regularly used the camera until 3 a.m. in the four days of searching.
If, after several more camera dives scheduled for next week, the body does not turn up, police will likely end the search.
“It’s a hard thing to tell the family that we will have to stop (searching),” said Johnston, who met with Prasad’s family on Wednesday.
The depth of the lake bottom, and the temperature of the water make it impossible to dive for the body without specialized equipment, Johnston said. These factors make it unlikely that the body will ever come to the surface on its own, he said.
The Truckee Police Department will not bear the full costs for the regional law enforcement that responded to Donner Lake for the search.
Truckee police will cover lodging, food and fuel expenses for the effort, but the other costs, like salaries, will be reimbursed by the state under the California Office of Emergency Services department, said Johnston.